By The Associated Press
COLUMBUS — A Columbus teacher is scheduled to be in federal court in Memphis, Tenn., on Oct. 3 to answer charges she was participating in a scheme in which teacher candidates would hire others to take certification tests.
WCBI-TV reports that 34-yeard-old Darcel Gardner, a special education teacher at Columbus High School, was placed on administrative leave Thursday by the school board.
Federal court records show she is free $5,000 bond on charges of mail fraud and aiding and abetting. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Federal prosecutors in Memphis say the scheme involved teacher certification tests in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas.
In July, Clarence Mumford Sr. of Memphis was charged with fraud and identity theft. Prosecutors alleged he is the ringleader of a group of individuals who were paid to take teacher certification examinations on behalf of aspiring teachers dating back to 1995.
According to the indictment, Gardner paid Mumford $1,000 to have someone take her Praxis biology licensing test on April 25, 2009. She mailed Mumford the money and her driver’s license on April 22, 2009, the indictment states.
As a result of getting a passing grade on the test, prosecutors say she got her Mississippi teacher’s certification in biology in July 2011.
The scheme was first uncovered in 2010 and prosecutors say it involves more than 50 teachers and test-takers. Mumford allegedly would make fake driver’s licenses which the bogus test-takers would show testing officials to get by identification requirements.