Two indicted on racketeering, fraud scheme to steal and sell state teacher certification exams
A significant number of educators may have used these “trade secrets” to get their license, according to federal investigators
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG) -
Thousands of teachers in Florida may have had help getting their license by a tutoring company that provided answers for the Teacher Certification Exam, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. He is about to announce indictments.
Kathleen and Jeremy Jasper, owners of NavaEd, are charged with one count of racketeering, one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, 108 counts of wire fraud, and three counts of theft of trade secrets. It’s unclear how many educators used their tutoring services to pass their license exams. Investigators say a “significant” number of individuals and organizations obtained these “trade secrets.”
The full indictment is below:
United States Attorney Lawrence Keefe today announced the indictment of two people in 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 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, certified Florida teachers Kathleen M. Jasper, 42, and Jeremy M. Jasper, 40, both of Estero, Florida, 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 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, who is United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. “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, 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 Kathleen and Jeremy Jasper 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. “As the office responsible for identifying fraud, abuse, and other criminal activity involving Department of Education funds and programs, ensuring that those who abuse these funds or game the system for their own selfish purposes are stopped and held accountable for their criminal actions is a big part of our mission.”
The Jaspers, in their capacity as the owners of NavaEd, conspired to conduct their business affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, which the indictment specifically alleges to consist of multiple acts of wire fraud. Wire fraud was committed when Kathleen and Jeremy Jasper, and employees and contractors working at their direction, falsely and fraudulently acknowledged and agreed to various testing rules and regulations, including a non-disclosure agreement, each time they registered to take the FTCE or FELE, the indictment says.
“These indictments are a powerful testament to the importance of cooperation between state and federal partners,” said FDLE’s Tallahassee Regional Operations Center Special Agent in Charge Mark Perez. “I am incredibly proud of the investigative resources our agents and analysts brought to this case, and tremendously grateful for our partners’ diligent work ensuring that justice is done.”
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 the Florida Department of Education, with investigative assistance by Pearson VUE, the company with whom the Florida Department of Education 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 scheduled for Friday, December 11, 2020, at 1:30 p.m., before the Honorable Magistrate Judge Martin Fitzpatrick at the United States Courthouse in Tallahassee.
An indictment is merely an allegation by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
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