Ex-captain guilty in fake diploma case

A former Iredell County Sheriff's captain, accused of submitting a fake college diploma to get more pay, pleaded guilty in federal court in Charlotte on Wednesday to theft from a government program.

Mark Stephen McCollum, 51, of Mooresville, faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. He was employed by the sheriff's office from 1987 until his resignation in December.

Iredell County had a policy that employees who completed post-secondary educational degree programs were eligible for salary increases. Employees who earned a four-year degree would receive a 5-percent pay increase.

Federal authorities said McCollum received a 5 percent raise in 2005 after submitting a document purported to be a diploma from Pfeiffer College for a bachelor of arts degree.

The Pfeiffer College diploma was fictitious, authorities said. McCollum did not earn a four-year degree from Pfeiffer or any other institution, they said.

McCollum received more than $8,000 in additional pay based on his submission of the fictitious degree, prosecutors allege. McCollum has agreed to pay about $8,000 in restitution to Iredell County, authorities said.

McCollum's sentencing date has not been set.