Niagara teacher tests value of university qualifications

Tiffany Dawn Sacco taught for months with fake Queen’s documents

Journal file photo

Tiffany Dawn Sacco advised the District School Board of Niagara in May of 2011 that she had completed FSL teaching qualifications at Queen’s. Three months later, it was discovered she had no such credentials. 

After a principal discovered that the information and documents she had used to support her claim were false, Sacco was suspended for professional misconduct. 

In an email to The Journal, District School Board of Niagara acting Chief Communications Officer Brett Sweeney said Sacco is no longer employed by the school board. “The DSBN expects all staff members to conduct themselves honestly, with integrity, at all times,” he continued. 

Sacco resigned three months after submitting her false qualifications and was suspended for four months. She was then given the ability to teach again on the basis that her suspension was over, completed a professional ethics course and an appeared before the Discipline Committee of the Board.  

The story of fake degrees isn’t new to the Canadian job market, nor is it exclusive to Queen’s. In the 2017 CBC documentary Fake Degrees – Exposing Canadians with phony credentials, journalists tracked the magnitude of fake degrees that flood the marketplace all over the country.   

The documentary investigates a therapist — amongst many others — who once forged a Masters Degree from an online website and used it for 20 years at his own firm. 

Individuals can also purchase degrees from accredited universities online for prices determined by sellers. In the documentary, the average seller asked for $1000. 

With fake degree prices ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, the difference between a real degree and a phony one becomes complicated. 

Websites like advertise fake degrees with emblems from universities in Canada for a price of $100-300 depending on the school. Reputable university seals are used to officiate degrees and a user can choose their specific program titles online before a draft is sent to them. 

In the case of Queen’s, a fake degree is made available through by request. Upon paying an undisclosed deposit of 50 per cent, the user can have their fake degree shipped to them within 3-5 days.

For Tiffany Dawn Sacco, it’s unclear if she used a fake-degree-generating website or other means to forge her qualifications. Regardless, under the Criminal Code of Canada, the creation of false documents or “utterances” of a forged document with the intent to fraud can be convicted for an indictable offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

While authorities continue to crack down, the increasing presence of fake degrees in Canada remains an issue for universities like Queen’s.

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