(Memphis) A former assistant principal and guidance counselor pleaded guilty to facilitating a test-taking scam spanning three states for almost two decades.
59-year-old Clarence Mumford Sr. pleaded guilty to two counts out of his 63-count indictment, admitting to wire fraud, mail fraud, social security fraud, and aggravated identity theft. He will face between two and five years in federal prison, as well as a maximum fine of $250,000.
He admitted to a federal judge that he helped create fake IDs for test-takers to take teacher examinations for other teachers or prospective teachers.
So far, eight others have pleaded guilty. Eighteen more people have signed diversion agreements, admitting that they paid Mumford to have tests taken for them. Those people are not allowed to teach for the next five years.
The people involved come from three states, including employees at Memphis City Schools, Shelby County Schools, schools in Eastern Arkansas, and several school districts in Mississippi.
Mumford’s attorney, Coleman W. Garrett, said, “He’s not doing well. He’s shaking. He’s nervous, he’s scared.”
Mumford sat through the court proceeding with his arms crossed and did not want to speak to the media.
Garrett said the complicated scheme of creating fake IDs with superimposed photos and laminate paper was a result of something spiraling out of control over time.
“It started out with him trying to assist someone, just doing him a favor. And it grew. Once he was successful doing it a couple of times, the word got out,” he said.
15 years later, several people managed to take 70 to 90 tests using fake IDs.
Garrett said that his client has not said that he is sorry in so many words, but knows that he did wrong and needs to be punished. Still, Garrett said that his client believes he has suffered quite a lot already.
“It’s kind of like a Joe Paterno effect. You know, you spend your whole life trying to build a reputation and trying to help people and what have you, and at the end of the line, it all gets snatched up from under you and you go down in flames,” he said.
Mumford was at one time a guidance counselor and an assistant principal in the Memphis City Schools. He most recently worked for the Hughes, AR school district.
Garrett does not believe Mumford recruited anyone along the way. Rather, people approached him.
However, in one press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office referred to a case of a Mr. Shaw, who also took tests for others: “Mumford Sr. repeatedly asked Mr. Shaw to take examinations for teachers needing passing scores, and Mr. Shaw eventually agreed.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office named 26 people who paid to have tests taken for them. They paid hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.
Ironically, sometimes the paid test-takers did not show up or did not pass the test. Some of the people who paid did not eventually get their teaching license.
In some cases, Educational Testing Services that creates the PRAXIS exam, discarded test results when they observed an unexplained big jump in someone’s score, or observed handwriting that didn’t match.
ETS finally caught one of the test-takers taking tests for two different people in one day. ETS then reported it to the Tennessee Department of Education, who then turned it over to TBI.
U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III said in a statement, “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.”