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Press Release

Ringleader Pleads Guilty In Multistate Teacher Certification Cheating Scam

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Tennessee

Memphis, TN – Clarence Mumford, Sr., 59, of Memphis, has pled guilty to charges related to the teacher certification cheating scam of which he was the ringleader, announced United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, Edward L. Stanton III. Mumford was originally charged in July 2012 in a 45-count indictment alleging a conspiracy to violate the laws of the United States, mail fraud, wire fraud, social security fraud, aggravated identity theft and fraud in connection with identification documents. The original indictment was superseded twice, in August 2012 and September 2012, ultimately resulting in a 63-count indictment charging Mumford and twelve other individuals.

“Today’s guilty plea by the ringleader of this test-taking scam illustrates one of the fundamental lessons we teach our kids: cheaters never win,” said United States Attorney Edward L. Stanton III. “Clarence Mumford cheated both honest teachers who did things the right way and also the parents and children who deserve to have qualified teachers in the classroom – and he did it all for personal gain. Actions such as these undermine our educational system and ultimately strike at the core of our society.” U.S. Attorney Stanton added: “We are proud to have partnered with the U.S. Secret Service, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office to bring Mumford to justice.”

Mumford’s guilty plea is the ninth in the case. Guilty pleas have been entered previously by John Bowen, Dante Dowers, Valerie Humphrey, Carlo McClelland, Carlos Shaw, Jeryl Shaw, Shantell Shaw, and Felippia Turner-Kellogg.

Mumford pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the laws of the United States and one count of aggravated identity theft. During the guilty plea hearing, it was revealed that numerous individuals paid Mumford to have teacher certification (PRAXIS) examinations taken on their behalf. Many were teaching under temporary licenses and needed to pass the examinations to retain their jobs. Others were attempting to obtain teaching jobs, or were teachers seeking additional endorsements on their licenses in subjects such as guidance counseling. Twenty-six individuals who had one or more examinations arranged by Mumford were named at the hearing. Of those, many obtained teaching licenses in Tennessee and
Mississippi based on the examinations. Many, however, never obtained licenses. Sometimes Mumford’s test-takers did not show up or did not pass the exams.

It was also revealed at the hearing that test-takers who were identified during the investigation admitted taking approximately 70 to 90 tests during the course of the scheme, which dated back to 1995. Mumford paid test-takers from $200 to $1000 per examination during the course of the conspiracy and charged individuals prices ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 for multiple examinations.

“The U.S. Secret Service is proud to be a partner in this investigation and prosecution,” said Rick Harlow, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis field office of the United States Secret Service. “Mr. Mumford’s actions attack the integrity of our school systems and undermine the trust of the people. The community impact of this case is significant and long reaching.”

Investigators began to unravel the ring after Bowen was caught at Arkansas State University taking a test in the morning in one person’s name and in the afternoon in a second person’s name. Proctors caught Bowen and two others who had taken morning and afternoon sessions in multiple names. Educational Testing Services, which created and administered the PRAXIS examinations, investigated and reported the incident to the Tennessee Department of Education, which referred the case to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The United States Secret Service later joined the investigation.

“At a time when educators across the state and nation are making sweeping reforms to improve the education system, this case tarnishes those efforts,” said Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn. “We hold the people who work in our schools and we trust with our children in high regard; unfortunately, the teachers, administrators and individuals involved in this case are a black eye on the education system. Cheating on teacher certification examinations sets a very poor example to our children. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is grateful that the scheme was exposed, and those responsible, especially Mr. Mumford, are going to have to pay a price.”

“The teacher fraud investigation and convictions exemplify the great results that can happen when state and federal agencies work together. Mumford’s guilty plea encompasses everything we mean when we say our job is to seek justice,” said Amy Weirich, Shelby County District Attorney General.

In addition to Mumford’s guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Stanton also announced that the following individuals, all of whom had tests taken for them during the scheme, have entered into diversion agreements with the government admitting to their involvement:

Debbie Adams, 39, of Lauderdale, MS
Natalie Blackmon, 36, of Jackson, MS
Keiver Campbell, 43, of Greenville, MS
Yanesha Coleman, 32, of Louisville, MS
Lavante Epson, 36, of Greenville, MS
Genette Haggie, 43, of Yazoo City, MS
Jacqueline Hill, 52, of Macon, MS
Frances Jones, 59, of Greenwood, MS
Gregory King, 41, of Columbus, MS
Willie Knox, 55, of Memphis, TN
Maria Lozano, 31, of Cordova, TN
Jerome Martin, 40, of Coldwater, MS
Vic Mosby, 56, of Pine Bluff, AR
Shunica Scott, 38, of Memphis, TN
Forman Thompson, 40, of Carthage, MS
Leonardo Thompson, 39, of Starkville, MS
Taponsa Wells, 41, of Clarksdale, MS
Brian Williams, 32, of Anguilla, MS

The diversion agreements bar these individuals from teaching for five years, regardless of whether they obtain valid teaching certificates based on their own scores, or whether they have already done so. These individuals have also signed five-year statute of limitations waivers, so that if they attempt obtain a teaching job within five years they will be prosecuted. In addition, the agreements require restitution from the individuals who obtained teaching licenses and positions as a result of tests arranged by Clarence Mumford, Sr.

This investigation is being conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the United States Secret Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Fabian and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirby May represent the government.

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Updated March 19, 2015