Trinity Southern University in Texas, a cellular company and the two brothers who ran them are accused of misappropriating Internet addresses of the state Senate and more than 60 Pennsylvania businesses to sell fake degrees and prescription drugs by spam e-mail, according to the lawsuit.
Investigators paid $299 for a bachelor's degree for Colby Nolan - a deputy attorney general's 6-year-old black cat - claiming he had experience including baby-sitting and retail management.
The school, which offers no classes, allegedly determined Colby Nolan's resume entitled him to a master of business administration degree; a transcript listed the cat's course work and 3.5 grade-point average.
The state is seeking a permanent injunction, civil penalties, costs and restitution for violating consumer law and restrictions on unsolicited e-mail ads.
Prosecutors said more than 18,000 illegal e-mails were sent out this year with links to Trinity Southern's Web address, including 300 that appeared to originate from the Internet servers of Pennsylvania companies and institutions.
Among the alleged victims are Penn State University and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as numerous Internet service providers, businesses and technology companies.
The defendants are the school; Innovative Cellular and Wireless Inc. of Corpus Christi, Texas; Alton Scott Poe of St. Cloud, Fla., vice chancellor and dean of admission for Trinity; and Craig Barton Poe of Frisco, Texas, president of Innovative Cellular.
A phone message left at Trinity Southern was not returned Monday. None of the other three defendants appears to have a listed or published phone number.
By Mark Scolforo