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Wal-Mart Heiress Accused of Cheating Gives Back USC Degree

Move comes nearly a year after Paige Laurie's ex-roommate made the allegations on TV.

October 20, 2005|From Associated Press

Wal-Mart heiress Elizabeth Paige Laurie, accused of paying a fellow college student $20,000 to do her homework, has returned her USC degree, officials said.

The move came nearly a year after Laurie's freshman-year roommate, Elena Martinez, told the ABC newsmagazine "20/20" that she had written term papers and done assignments for the heiress for 3 1/2 years.

"Paige Laurie voluntarily has surrendered her degree and returned her diploma to the university. She is not a graduate of USC," the school said in a statement dated Sept. 30. "This concludes the university's review of the allegations concerning Ms. Laurie."

USC spokesman James Grant said Wednesday that the university had no further comment.

A call seeking comment from Bill Laurie, the father of Paige, at his Paige Sports Entertainment company was not returned. The family has repeatedly declined to comment on the cheating allegations.

Martinez said at the time of the "20/20" broadcast that she joined the ROTC to earn money for college but eventually dropped out because she couldn't afford tuition at USC. She said she learned a great deal by doing Laurie's classwork.

Martinez has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment.

Paige Laurie, granddaughter of Wal-Mart co-founder Bud Walton, was given a bachelor's degree by the USC Annenberg School for Communication in May 2004.

After the cheating allegations surfaced last November, the University of Missouri removed her name from a sports arena named for her. Her parents, billionaires Bill and Nancy Laurie, the daughter of Walton, had received naming rights for the building in exchange for donating $25 million toward its construction.

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