TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Two former educators have been federally indicted after officials said they helped teachers cheat on their state licensing exams.
Florida teachers are required to pass competency exams every five years to maintain their licenses. There has been controversy in recent years over a high failure rate.
Now prosecutors are saying a couple was involved in a racketeering scheme to provide the actual questions and answers to teachers for cash.
Every year, tens of thousands of Florida educators take tests to determine how well they know the topics they’re teaching.
The Florida Department of Education tests teachers in 30 combined subject areas, ranging from math to reading to social sciences.
But Friday, federal prosecutors announced they have uncovered evidence that some of them obtained stolen answers.
“The indictment alleges 114 counts of various federal crimes, the first of which is a conspiracy to commit racketeering, or what's also known as a Rico conspiracy,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Keene, at a Friday press conference announcing the charges.
Charged were Kathleen and Jeremy Jasper, two former educators who operate a Fort Myers-based company called Navaed.
The Jaspers are listed on the company’s website as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer.
Kathleen authored several study guides to help teachers pass the tests and the company posted dozens of YouTube videos advertising their tutoring services.
But prosecutors say their business wasn’t all above board.
“Through fraudulent means, they were able to access the content including the questions and answers, and that enabled them as alleged in the indictment to appropriate and obtain the questions and answers,” said U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe.
Prosecutors say the Jaspers registered for and took particular tests multiple times.
The indictment indicates they registered and paid to take 110 teachers' exams, allowing them to get access to different versions.
They allegedly memorized test content and immediately recorded it through “writing and electronic means” when they left the test center, a process the feds referred to as “brain dumping.”
The Florida Department of Education banned the Jaspers from taking more tests in 2018, but prosecutors say the couple used employees and contractors to take the tests and share the answers.
Prosecutors say those questions and answers were distributed by email, online, in coaching sessions and through publications sold on Amazon worldwide.
“A significant number of individuals, as well as organizations, obtained these questions and answers, and were part of the dissemination of them,” Keefe said.
Prosecutors say the scheme started in early 2016 and continue through March.
If convicted, the Jaspers could face 20 years in prison on each of the racketeering charges and up to 10 years for each of the additional felony counts.
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