Kansas Attorney General Shuts Down Online University

The Kansas attorney general shut down Monticello University, an Internet-based school, for falsely offering degrees from accredited institutions in Kansas, South Dakota, Hawaii and overseas locations.

Kansas Attorney General Carla Stovall filed suit last week against Leslie Edwin Snell, alleging that about 200 people paid $2,000 to $8,000 for accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees from his online Monticello University, also known as Thomas Jefferson University. Neither name is accredited by any official agencies, according to the suit.

The attorney general's office had been investigating Snell for about two years, originally tipped off that he was practicing law in the state without a license, said assistant attorney general Derek Schmidt.

"We were investigating that when Mr. Snell told people in this office about Thomas Jefferson University, and later we received at least one inquiry from a prospective student about the school," Schmidt said. "Ultimately, we got a formal referral from the Kansas Board of Regents that he was unlawfully granting degrees in the state."

At this time, Snell's whereabouts are unknown, and he has not officially been notified of the suit against him. His residence, business headquarters and the World Wide Web host are all located in Kansas, but the attorney general's suit says the school claimed to operate from locations in South Dakota, Hawaii, Montreal, Hong Kong and London.

The site (www.monticello.edu) was disconnected over the weekend after a state judge issued a temporary restraining order against the online university.

"The current status is that we have a petition on file, a temporary restraining order against the Monticello University site and a sequestration order freezing the bank accounts of Mr. Snell," Schmidt said. "He has a due process right to know about the suit against him and right now we're in the process of trying to locate him and do that."

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