Federal investigators have uncovered a massive scandal in which dozens of prospective teachers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee cheated on their certification tests. They paid a retired teacher in Memphis to send in people to take the tests for them.
For 15 years, teachers in three Southern states paid Clarence Mumford Sr. — himself a longtime educator — to send someone else to take the tests in their place, authorities said. Each time, Mumford received a fee of between $1,500 and $3,000 to send one of his test ringers with fake identification to the Praxis exam. In return, his customers got a passing grade and began their careers as cheaters, according to federal prosecutors in Memphis.Mumford was indicted in July on 45 counts of fraud and identity theft. An additional 15 counts of fraud and conspiracy have been added in a superseding indictment. Using the Social Security numbers of prospective teachers, he created fake IDs and attached a picture of one of his test-takers. The test-takers then took and passed the certification tests, and the prospective teachers used those scores to win jobs with area schools.
But apparently the test-takers got careless. In 2009, one of Mumford's hired guns, John Bowen, was caught taking a test for a woman after taking a test for a man earlier in the day. Bowen and three others have pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme, and 14 others have been charged with mail fraud and Social Security fraud.
Probably the biggest name on the list is former Steelers and 49ers wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who is accused of having one of Mumford's test takers take his PE certification exam for him.
Now you're probably wondering how a longtime educator could engage in something so outrageous. But according to WREG-TV in Memphis, Mumford is a real sleazeball.
Right now, he’s also out on bond for a DUI and Indecent Exposure charge in Tunica.To put it mildly, this is absolutely staggering. It means that hundreds, if not thousands, of kids in three states may have been taught by teachers who didn't belong in the classroom.
His long career at MCS ended with him as a guidance counselor at Hillcrest High when a student accused him of fondling her.
The charges were eventually dismissed.
Even with a spotty record in two different states, Mumford was able to get another job in education.
He was hired at Hughes, AR. Mumford is the guidance counselor in the Hughes School District. We went by the school where he worked to check on the status of his employment.
We were told Hughes Superintendent Jimmy Wilkins would call us back but we’re still waiting. The folks who say the small school is the heart of their small community are also waiting.
“You would think they would have. They should have did a background check on him they should have,” said Nora Hornbeak, Hughes, AR.
She added, “I certainly hope it don’t do anything to our school system because we really need our school.”
Mumford could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted in all charges. Given the stakes, that wouldn't be too far out of line.