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Teachers in three states embroiled in test-taking fraud

MEMPHIS — A longtime educator has been charged with fraud in a scheme to help aspiring public school teachers cheat on the tests they must pass to prove they are qualified, federal prosecutors said.

For 15 years, teachers in three Southern states allegedly paid Clarence Mumford Sr. to send someone else to take the tests in their place.

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Each time, Mumford received a fee of between $1,500 and $3,000 to send one of his ringers with fake identification to the Praxis exam. In return, his customers got a passing grade, according to federal prosecutors in Memphis.

Authorities say the scheme affected hundreds — if not thousands — of public school students who ended up being taught by unqualified instructors.

Mumford allegedly collected tens of thousands of dollars during the conspiracy, which prosecutors say lasted from 1995 to 2010 in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Mumford faces more than 60 fraud and conspiracy charges that allege he created fake driver’s licenses with the information of a teacher or an aspiring teacher and attached the photograph of a test-taker. Prospective teachers are accused of giving Mumford their Social Security numbers for him to make the fake identities.

The hired-test takers went to testing centers, showed the proctor the fake license, and passed the certification exam, prosecutors say. Then, the aspiring teacher used the test score to secure a job with a public school district, the indictment alleges. Fourteen people have been charged with mail and Social Security fraud, and four people have pleaded guilty to charges associated with the scheme.

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