Fraudster Update: Will Adkins and the Open Letter to MMO Bomb

It’s been nearly two weeks since MMO Fallout published our piece regarding the Marvel Heroes Rebirth Indiegogo project, Marvel Heroes and the Diploma Mill of Nostalgia, and the article has garnered quite a bit of controversy by which I mean accusations of plagiarism and a demand that we link to a blog you might formally know as MMO Bomb. Now I’m not here to disparage our fellow denizens on the internet, since that’s the job for our subject of interest, but I’d just like to make a small 100% unrelated anecdote before we begin that when Johns Hopkins university measures the radiation coming off of the sun, they didn’t necessarily bounce their research off of, nor do they need to cite Aunt Sue walking outside and noticing that the sun sure is bright today.

But I’m not a jealous person, and since there is the distinct possibility that an ambitious editor in chief of said website (linked above here and below mine) decided to point out to anyone who covered the story that they broke it first, I have enjoyed the normal increase in traffic that Crowdfunding Fraudsters provides along with the boosted revenue ($0) with the safety of knowing that the inevitable legal complaints will not be coming my way because someone else decided to raise their hand and take the brunt of the attention. The less time I have to spend filing complaints to the State Bar Association in response to frivolous threats, the better.

Now, since our article was published, the Indiegogo campaign has been shut down with a message on the game’s website giving an explicit accusation that “a gaming blog” ignored the facts in order to publish false allegations for the sake of driving traffic and generating revenue, along with a small hint toward potential further action over irreparable damage to Paragon Institute.

“The bankruptcy hearing that would lead to the sale of Gazillion assets has been delayed; this would give us little time to react once the outcome of the hearing is known. Secondly, the landlord that controls the offices for Gazillion is petitioning the court to take possession of all on-site assets per his lease agreements (including the servers containing source code and game assets); it is now possible that the assets will not make it to a court-led sale.

We are aware of the false accusations originating from a gaming blog; we have been in contact with their president in an attempt to resolve this.  They have elected to ignore the full facts and  seem motivated by the goal of driving traffic to their site and generating revenue. These false allegations have caused irreparable damage to Paragon Institute. More details will follow as we are able to share.”

I know they’re not talking about me because MMO Fallout has no revenue to generate, and nobody from Paragon has been in touch. There’s also the little matter that nothing we said was false and, just to throw an example out of the blue, our piece didn’t make any potentially actionable statements like musing on the possibility that Paragon Institute may be looking to continue the diploma mill practices of Chadwick Institute. I’m just throwing statements out there.

But imagine my surprise late afternoon on February 10 when a comment showed up on my piece by none other than Will Adkins himself, or at least a private Disqus account signed up for with none other than a Virtucorp email address (for more information on Virtucorp, see the above link) and a lot of information. The long comment, interestingly enough, was a direct open letter not to myself but to the other author of this fine coverage (again, linked above). I’m willing to take a shot in the dark that this was posted on the wrong website, because it was almost immediately deleted and then re-posted on the actual article that Adkins was responding to. Thankfully the internet never forgets, and I’m sent a copy of all comments posted here by email for record keeping purposes which according to the MMO Fallout legal team gives me permission to re-post for your viewing pleasure.

The good news is, according to this commenter who we’ll refer to as “Will Allegedkins,” in the unlikely event his credentials turn out to be forged, we now have an answer for the connection with Chadwick University, the defunct diploma mill who ceased granting diplomas back around 2007 and not a few years ago as has been reported on other websites. The website for Chadwick University has since come back online since our piece, directly explaining the link between the two organizations:

This site is maintained by Paragon Institute, Inc. (a 501c3 non-profit) to facilitate transcript requests for former Chadwick University students and share site content as it existed in 2007; Paragon Institute has not been involved in the academic operations or conferral of said degrees. Except as otherwise noted, the site reflects policies and standards as implemented during operations.

See, a simple question given a simple answer, Paragon is acting as a custodian to Chadwick’s transcript requests because it may be a thankless job, but someone has to do it. According to the Web Archive, this explanation has been up for at least several years now, the archive doesn’t go further back than 2015, so don’t get the impression that it has suddenly been updated.

But what about Paragon Institute itself, the 501c3 non-profit? We tracked Paragon Institute to Virtucorp, another website that has seemingly risen from the dead since our piece and, as we stated originally, is still filled with Lorem Ipsum gibberish and doesn’t actually include anything about anything.

I did note in the original article that Paragon Institute originally operated as American Southern University and according to its 501c3 filings for the past ten years, did business under several names of which MMO Fallout was unable to procure any evidence of any of these entities doing anything or existing in any substantive way for that matter. I’m not saying they didn’t exist, but if they did they have all been forgotten by the elephantine memory of the internet.

In addition, the ASU filed its form for organizations that claim less than $50 grand annually, which explains the lack of institution-esque work and the fact that we can’t identify anyone associated other than Mr. Adkins. There is zero web presence for any of the names, none of them show up on the official list of accredited institutions, nor do they show up on lists of unaccredited institutions for that matter. We have no information about them, and given that fact I tried to quickly move on from discussing their existence at all.

But Paragon Institute, as I later learned, hasn’t really done anything either. After the Web Archive decided to start working for us again, we went back as far as we could into Paragon’s past, 2014, and found that the institute was still in its re-launching phase even back then. We’re inclined to believe Mr. Adkin’s statement that the institute never issued a single diploma because such a statement would be easily disproved if it were a lie.

“Paragon Institute has been legally empowered since it was formed, as American Southern University in 2008, to award diplomas. However, it has not issued one during that time. The original intent was to create MOOCs and partner with other institutions to award accredited academic credit. As other providers moved into that space, the organization has pursued other initiatives more targeted at niche markets – such as STEM training and the one proposed with the IndieGoGo campaign. JASON – can you provide ANY evidence that Paragon has EVER awarded a diploma, legitimate or otherwise?”

Mr. Allegedkins has a point here, there is no evidence that Paragon Institute has ever awarded a diploma, and by our research there is no living evidence on the internet that it was ever a functioning institute, accredited or otherwise. It’s like the podcast I talked about starting back in 2010, it certainly exists in theory but has never actually gotten around to producing episode one. The statement goes on to say that Chadwick University probably wasn’t a diploma mill, and this is one of the few points I have to disagree with Mr. A-kins on.

“The main reason cited for being a diploma mill is that Chadwick University granted credit for life experience. Particularly during that time, accreditation was more about protecting faculty and the school rather than students”

Not necessarily true. We know Chadwick University was a fraudulent institute just by looking at its founder, Lloyd Clayton Jr., a quack whose degree in the faux medical practice of Naturopathy has gifted him with expertise in the arts of herbology and massage, whose school was slammed with class action lawsuits, and whose (also unrecognized) accrediting institution was founded by a woman who believed that the “Jews and Catholics” were suppressing evidence of her psychic link to the lost city of Atlantis. You see, there is a purpose on why MMO Fallout went into more detailed coverage of Lloyd Claton Jr and Chadwick University than other outlets did, it paints a clearer picture than simply saying “some people have called them a diploma mill.” Chadwick U was never accredited by anyone who mattered, it was however licensed to operate until Alabama decided to crack down on (you guessed it) diploma mills.

Legally speaking, we are not accusing Chadwick University of committing a crime because operating an unaccredited institution was not illegal at the time that it existed in Alabama. We simply pointed out that it is illegal to use a degree from Chadwick University in several states to obtain a job.

I didn’t spend too much time on this in the original piece as to not get off track, because I’d like to make it perfectly clear that the activities of Lloyd Clayton Jr. and Chadwick University have no bearing on the credibility of the Paragon Institute, and I am emphasizing that out of my own free will, but since we’re on the topic, Clayton’s other college (Clayton College of Natural Health), also defunct, offered courses in topics like aromatherapy, spectro-chrome therapy, therapeutic touch, and imaginal healing. If you’d really like to get off topic, we can start discussing the unlicensed doctors who graduated from Clayton’s schools who are now serving prison sentences for peddling fake cancer cures, duping and in some cases possibly causing the death of their patients via bogus treatments. None of Chadwick University’s actions have any bearing on Paragon Institute, I’d like to remind you.

“As a side note, not being recognized by Texas does not mean that Chadwick wasn’t a good education. I don’t expect most people to know about academic licensure, unless they claim they do and portray it incorrectly. In Texas, you must either be accredited or be based in the state for your degree to be recognized. Period. It’s not based on academic quality in that regard.”

Accreditation is absolutely about quality, in fact it’s literally in the mission statement on the Department of Education‘s website.

“The goal of accreditation is to ensure that institutions of higher education meet acceptable levels of quality.”

You can’t get accredited unless your institute adheres to guidelines on the quality of education, performance of the students, meets certain financial viability requirements, as well as the credentials of the staff. I know this because while in college the institute I was attending was being audited to determine its qualification for continued accreditation (which happens every few years), and I discussed with several professors who were directly associated with keeping the school accredited the qualifications required and the things that they needed to prove.

Now does that mean that every school that isn’t accredited is because it is not of acceptable quality? Of course not, that would be a logical fallacy. The process is, after all, voluntary and not all institutes are willing to go through what is a very difficult and expensive process. It’s like being certified by the Better Business Bureau, except the accreditation institutes have actual authority.

It’s like the difference between a deli being certified kosher and another just claiming to be kosher. They could theoretically both be going through the exact same process, with the latter simply deciding not to pay the required fees to be certified by a third party agency, and the former suppressing evidence of the lost city of Atlantis. Both outcomes may result in food that is equally kosher, but one comes with the approval of a guiding party that can reasonably be assumed is demanding that certain standards be kept, and the other is on the losing end of a barrage of lawsuits and busy dealing with the federal government trying to get them shut down and thrown in prison for fraud, like that Kevin Trudeau guy.

But let’s talk politics, did you know that Will Adkins ran for Congress in 2008?

“The third-party needed to pull in 2% of the vote across the state to remain on the ballot. This paved the way for future campaigns. It was a clean race, ran in only a few months v. a year for other candidates, helped achieve the desired goal, and was run without taking contributions from our citizens. I knew that I wasn’t going for the ‘win’ and could not take funding knowing that.”

For the record, I did do a lot of research on Will Adkins the man, 99% of which I left out minus what is likely his house (and address of Paragon Institute) and the fact that he was planning on running for Congress this year. I left out the part where he ran in 2008 as a libertarian because it’s frankly irrelevant to what he’s doing now, and would probably just come off as petty and disparaging to talk about the results, or I could make a comment about how Adkins’ performance in the second district actually strengthened the Libertarian ticket and may have had a direct hand in increasing turnout for the following two elections, making for the strongest election periods for the Libertarian party in the recent history of the second district of North Carolina, but that probably sounds like off-topic praise coming out of nowhere.

Allegedkins goes on to mention that they had some former Gazillion staff on board, however the perception of the project is too negative at the moment to proceed, ending with a parting shot against the article’s author.

Yes, the IndieGoGo campaign has stalled. Much of the feedback I’ve received attributed it to your article which was a misleading attempt to drive traffic and revenue; this then spread to other sites. We have been in contact with former Gazillion staff members (a limited number albeit) and was looking forward to announcing this soon. Even though they understand the situation, they feel the perception of the endeavor is too negative right now.

Jason, I get that you’re not a real news organization; you are a well-read gaming blog, but your readers still expect integrity just the same. In this case you are attempting to make the news rather than report it. We don’t know if it is malice on your part driving this or an inability to do real investigative reporting. We hope it’s not ill intent.
-Will Adkins

Now that’s rough, but since the campaign has been cancelled and doesn’t look like it will be returning in the near future, I guess that ends this saga of Crowdfunding Fraudsters. Hopefully we all learned something important from this experience.

Tune in this April when we cover the official launch of the ZX Spectrum Vega Plus, and tune in later this year when In Plain English covers the case of Paragon Institute v Defendant.

(Source: My Email)

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