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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Texas

Monday, May 2, 2016

Another Former El Paso Independent School District Employee Surrenders – Charged in Fraud Scheme

In El Paso this morning, 40–year-old James Anderson, former El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) Assistant Superintendent-Secondary Schools Division, surrendered to federal agents after being indicted in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) by artificially inflating state and federal student accountability scores announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lindquist, El Paso Division; and, U.S. Department of Education Inspector General Kathleen S. Tighe.

The federal grand jury indictment, unsealed today as to Anderson and last week as to his five co-defendants, charges him with one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to commit mail fraud; mail fraud; and, making a false statement to a federal investigator. 

Anderson’s co-defendants include: 50–year-old former El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) Associate Superintendent Damon Murphy; 52-year-old former Austin High School (AHS) Principal John Tanner; 51-year-old former AHS Assistant Principal Mark Phillip Tegmeyer; 53-year-old former AHS Assistant Principal Diane Thomas; and, 48-year-old former AHS Assistant Principal Nancy Love.  All five surrendered to FBI agents last Wednesday.

The indictment alleges a scheme on the part of the defendants between February 2006 to September 2013 to violate the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) portion of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in order to keep EPISD compliant with program requirements.

According to the indictment, fraudulent misrepresentations regarding EPISD's Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) were submitted to the Texas Education Agency and the DOE in order to make it appear as though EPISD was meeting and exceeding AYP standards. 

In the 2008/2009 school year, Murphy allegedly gave high school principals “marching orders” to “put up barriers” to prevent 9th grade Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students and others who they perceived would perform poorly on the TAKS test from going on to the 10th grade.  Later, Murphy and others implemented a plan using partial course credits for the 10th grade to reclassify and promote those held-back students to the 11th grade thereby circumventing all mandated testing/accountability procedures including the 10th grade TAKS test.

The indictment further alleges that Anderson and others encouraged EPISD employees to lie about implementation of this scheme while intimidating and threatening those EPISD employees who did not follow their directions.

The indictment also alleges that from July 2006 to June 2013, Anderson, along with others, created a plan to reduce or eliminate the African–American subgroup at certain schools to make it appear to the DOE that no African-American subgroup existed on any EPISD Priority School Division campus.

The indictment also alleges that in August 2012, Anderson knowingly made a false statement to federal authorities in an attempt to mislead them and impede the government from learning of his role and others’ role in the above mentioned scheme.

Anderson faces up to five years in federal prison upon conviction of conspiracy to defraud the Government; up to 20 years in federal prison upon conviction of conspiracy to commit mail fraud; up to 20 years in federal prison upon conviction of mail fraud; and, up to five years in federal prison for making a false statement to a federal agent.  Anderson is expected to have his initial appearance in federal court tomorrow afternoon at 2:30.  He remains in federal custody at this time.

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Education Office of Inspector General.  Assistant United States Attorneys Debra Kanof and Robert Almonte are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.

It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Public Corruption
Updated May 2, 2016