Couple Accused Of Stealing, Selling Teacher Certification Test Answers Faces Federal Racketeering Charges
Calling it a case of “statewide significance,” U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe on Friday announced federal charges in a scheme to sell test content from Florida’s teacher certification exam.
Even prospective teachers taking the state’s certification exam sign a nondisclosure agreement stating they won’t share content of the test before taking it. But a yet undisclosed number of Florida teachers payed to get questions and answers after investigators say a Florida couple was selling them.
“A significant number of individuals, as well as organizations, obtained these questions and answers, and were part of the dissemination of them and use of them by a certain numerical segment of people who sat for, and took and prepared for, the exam,” Keefe told media this week.
During a virtual press conference, Keefe detailed how NavaEd, an Estero-based company launched in 2016, offered training and tutoring for the exam. Investigators say its owners were memorizing, writing out and selling test content.
“The two defendant individuals fraudulently accessed the questions and answers to Florida’s teacher certification examination,” the U.S. attorney added.
Running the company was Fort Myers area couple Kathleen and Jeremy Jasper.
The couple, who were previously certified teachers, agreed to keep confidential content of the exams. Instead, they’re accused of sharing that content through email, phone, video conferencing and messaging apps with customers willing to buy the information fraudulently.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Keen was part of the investigation.
“It’s alleged in the indictment that the scheme was to represent to the Florida Department of Education, during the test registration process to become a teacher, that they were not going to take any of the testing materials out of the testing center, including by memory, or share the content of the test materials with anybody before, during or after such an exam,” Keen explained.
Keefe, who has teachers in his family, says that kind of fraud creates a deeper, troubling effect.
“We have a situation where the misappropriation of these questions and answers have had the effect, potentially, of corrupting the process by which Florida, the third largest state in this country, tests, evaluates and certifies its teachers as well as its education leaders – administrators and principals,” Keefe said Friday.
The multi-agency investigation has resulted in federal racketeering charges, including 108 counts of wire fraud, and three counts of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets.
The Jaspers now face a maximum of 30 years in federal prison, on all charges combined.
Computer equipment was seized from NavaEd in March by the U.S. Department of Education.
Kori Smith is acting special agent in charge of the federal agency’s law enforcement arm, its Office of the Inspector General:
“As part of our responsibilities, we conduct investigations of fraud, abuse, and other criminal activity involving department funds and programs,” Smith said during the joint press conference.
As far as punishment for teachers and administrators who fraudulently took the test, officials say the state and federal departments of education will determine what penalties they face. Law enforcement officials did not answer Friday whether those teachers will lose their certifications.
Though the investigative team couldn't say how many teachers in how many districts used stolen question and answers for teacher certification, Bay County, already came out with some information. The district says 10 study guides and tutorial courses were purchased from NavaEd for employees. The district says it has ceased using NavaEd as a vendor.
The Jaspers made their first appearance in federal court Friday. Ahead of the hearing, they released a statement, through their company NavaEd, claiming innocence in the case.