Two teachers in Estero were allegedly caught cheating and face 114 federal charges and decades behind bars.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Lawrence Keefe today announced the indictment of certified Florida teachers Kathleen M. Jasper and Jeremy M. Jasper in what Keefe’s office called, “a far-reaching conspiracy scheme to allegedly steal, defraud, and profiteer by cheating the state’s educator testing, certification, and licensing process.”
The indictment says the couple and employees of their private company, which offered tutoring and training to prepare prospective Florida educators to pass state certification and licensing, repeatedly took state-required exams in order to memorize the questions so they could then profit by selling them to prospective educators.
The indictment alleges that since January 2016, the couple stole content from the Florida Teacher Certification Exams (FTCE) and the Florida Educational Leadership Exam (FELE). They are alleged to have then included the stolen content in test preparation materials and services sold through their business, the indictment says. Passing these exams is required for certification in Florida, and the test content is owned by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) and the State Board of Education.
“This alleged scheme represents an insult to the vast majority of Florida’s public school teachers and administrators who studied and worked hard the right way to become certified in their profession because it provided an illegal and unethical shortcut for others,” said Keefe. “Floridians expect and deserve to know that the public schools to which they entrust their children to learn are being led by teachers and administrators who properly earned their way into the system. The profiteering scheme alleged in this indictment strikes at the very heart of public education by undermining the credibility of important licensing exams that help ensure the very best for our children.”
The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury on December 1 and unsealed yesterday, charges the Jaspers with racketeering conspiracy (RICO), conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 108 counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, and three counts of theft of trade secrets. They face a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and each wire fraud count, and up to 10 years in prison for conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets and for each theft of trade secrets count.
According to the indictment, the Jaspers owned and operated NavaEd, LLC, a company that offered tutoring and training to prepare prospective Florida educators to pass the FTCE and the FELE. NavaEd offered training publications for sale worldwide directly through its website and through third-party e-commerce websites such as Amazon and Shopify.
The indictment alleges that the Jasper’s each took the FTCE and FELE multiple times – after having already passed the exams – in order to see and memorize, or “harvest,” as many different exam questions as possible. According to the indictment, the Jaspers also directed NavaEd employees and independent contractors to take the exams for the same purpose.
As alleged in the indictment, the Jaspers and NavaEd customers shared the stolen FTCE and FELE test content with each other through email, phone, video conferencing, and messaging applications. The indictment also alleges that the Jaspers republished the stolen test content – verbatim and almost verbatim – into NavaEd publications that were written to prepare future Florida teachers and school administrators for the certification exams. These publications, as well as other NavaEd FTCE and FELE preparation materials, were disseminated and used during NavaEd training seminars and tutoring sessions.
“Today’s indictment alleges that these two so-called educators knowingly and willfully preyed on school districts and teachers, and taxpayer money. Together with our law enforcement partners, we were able to stop them,” said Kori Smith, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s Southern Regional Office.
The case resulted from a joint investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the United States Department of Education-Office of Inspector General, and FDOE, with investigative assistance by Pearson VUE, the company with whom the FDOE contracted to administer and provide test security for the FTCE and FELE. Assistant United States Attorney Justin M. Keen is prosecuting the case.
An initial appearance and arraignment are today, at 1:30 p.m., before the Honorable Magistrate Judge Martin Fitzpatrick at the United States Courthouse in Tallahassee.