By KESINEE TANGKHIEO
The defendants were also ordered to return the money their victims, including actors and prominent society figures, lost to the fraud.
WPU, which was headquartered in Chiang Mai, had set up several campuses, including in Nonthaburi and Khon Kaen, without receiving permission from the authorities.
By releasing false information and setting up large facilities, WPU was successful in luring 100 victims in 2012-2013 to enrol in courses that focused on independent learning.
WPU founder Sawat Banthoengsuk holds a doctorate and academic rank of professor.
WPU falsely claimed on its website, www.wpucm.com, its blog wpubkk.blogspot.com and on www.wpu15.com, that it was linked with a university of the same name in the United States.
After studying evidence, the Criminal Court convicted Sawat and his eight accomplices of several counts of public fraud and setting up an illegal higher-educational institute.
The accomplices included professors Supanat Donchan, Raywat Chatreewisit, Nawin Promjisa, Manop Pasitwilaitham and Supachai Kajornsirlpakdee, all of whom are doctorate degree holders. Warangkhanang Paopongsa, a certified professional nurse, is also a defendant because she helped Sawat handle financial affairs.
All nine defendants have so far denied any wrongdoing, and say they will appeal.
Sawat, Supanat, Raywat, Nawin, Manop and Warangkhanang were each released on Bt1 million bail guarantees yesterday. Others remained in custody as of press time yesterday because they could not present a guarantee of Bt1 million in time.