U.S. District Court Judge John Fowlkes sentenced longtime Memphis educator Clarence Mumford, Sr., to seven years in prison in a multi-state test-taking fraud.
The 59-year-old Mumford was the ring leader who plead guilty to leading a 15-year scheme that helped teachers cheat on qualification exams.
In February, he pleaded guilty to masterminding a multi-state scheme that helped more than 40 teachers cheat on their certification exams. Prosecutors said Mumford, for fees ranging from $1,500 to $6,000, promised teachers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee he would arrange for someone else to take their qualification exams.
The passing scores were then used to help people get jobs in public schools.
Mumford also supplied fake drivers licenses for the phony test-takers. Originally charged with a 63-count indictment, Mumford agreed to plead to conspiracy to commit mail, wire, identification and Social Security fraud - in addition to one count of aggravated identity theft. In return he'll do seven years in prison.
"For every child, among the first lessons you learn on day one of school, is do the right thing, play by the rules. Cheaters never win," said Edward Stanton III, West District U.S. Attorney General.
Three people testified including special ed teacher Frances Jones and Mumford's wife Dorothy Louise.
Jones, a former Mississippi teacher, had believed in Mumford enough to give him $3,000 to help her get past her teachers exam. She still believed even after the hired fake test-taker failed to show up and Mumford asked her for $3,000 more to get another one. Jones told a judge the only thing she has faith in now about Mumford is his confession of guilt.
She testified against Mumford in exchange for immunity. Jones says Mumford cheated him out of a total of $6,000 in order to have someone take the test for her.
"This was a very deliberate and complex scheme," Stanton said. "Over a decade, if you will, in the making. So, this is not your typical case that we see. But, it's something that ultimately the ringleader today, Clarence Mumford, Sr., was brought to justice."
Louise testified she had no idea about any of this until her home was searched in September 2010. They found money and drivers licenses in the home, according to his wife.
She told the judge that their daughter has Lupus and she is afraid no one will be there to take care of their daughter if her husband is sentenced.
"The 84 months that he's going to have to do on this case, it's going to be real devastating to his family," said Coleman Garrett, Mumford's attorney. " But, where we started, he was looking at life in prison basically."
With more than a dozen family and friends in attendance, on the stand Mumford expressed to Judge Fowlkes remorse for the crime while taking full responsibility, by summing up ... I was wrong. I made some bad choices. I tried to help."
"When he first got involved in this, I think he was just trying to help some folks out, what have you," Garrett said. "He realized for long it was a service that he could get paid for and it just turned into a little business."
In ordering Mumford to pay restitution of more than $167,000 to three Mississippi school districts that lodged impact statements with prosecutors, Judge Fowlkes noted "cheating for money devastatingly overwhelms the positives."
"It's shameful the fact you had aspiring teachers who were told we don't have any room for you because of these others who didn't play by the rules," Stanton said. "The great men and women who every day make a tremendous difference in our classrooms on a daily basis, this should not tarnish for any reason, the good work that they're doing."
For even children know, cheaters are never suppose to win.