TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Two teachers are facing charges for what U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Florida, Lawrence Keefe called preying on local school districts, teachers and your tax dollars.
Kathleen and Jeremy Jasper are the owners of NavaED in based in Ft. Myers.
On its website, NavaED advertises itself as experts in teacher and school leadership certification exams. The website says "we immerse ourselves in these assessments so we can share insights."
The business also provides tutoring help with school subjects and other tests like the SAT.
The Jaspers are accused of using their test prep business to help people cheat on the state's teacher certification exams.
In the indictment from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Jaspers are accused of taking the Florida Education Leadership Exam and Florida Teacher Certification Exams repeatedly. Court documents say the couple and other employees memorized the questions and answers in order to craft a study guide.
Investigators say it began in March 2016.
"It's very important to note that, despite this implication, that there is a cloud on the competency or integrity of teachers and principles in Florida. It's very important to understand that our teachers and our school administrators vast majority of them are highly competent, high integrity, and selflessly do great work each day," said U.S. Attorney Keefe.
The U.S. Attorney said this is one example of the work the department's recently formed Public Trust Unit, and stressed how serious his office takes education.
"Assistant United States Attorney Justin Keen's wife is a teacher. My father and mother were both in education. My father was a high school teacher, my mother worked in the library. So I have grown up in the culture with deep undivided respect for teachers and school administrators," said Keefe.
Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued this statement to ABC 27.
“The alleged actions by Kathleen and Jeremy Jasper and NavaEd are abhorrent, unacceptable, and embarrassing. If the charged allegations are proven, stealing questions from Florida’s teacher certification exams and then profiting by selling live test questions, especially to unknowing educators, is despicable. The extreme misuse of these test questions is a direct slap in the face to Florida educators who work hard every day to instill strong moral values and academic integrity into the lives, and character, of our students. The Florida Department of Education has been working closely with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, the United States Department of Education, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for more than a year, and we greatly appreciate their diligence and hard work to bring these wrongdoers to justice. Additionally, the Department of Education has worked hard over the past year to replace the stolen exam questions with new content to ensure the integrity of the teacher certification exams.”
U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe says he's unaware of how many teachers benefited from NavaEd.
NavaED is maintaining innocence, posting on Facebook that they plan to fight the charges.
As part of their release, the business can remain open as long as it does sell prep material or services for those state exams.
The couple's attorney said they will plead not guilty.
"There are a lot of questions that are already on the FDOE website, so how can they be trade secrets? They're helping teachers and students pass exams, just like any other prep course. This is a very aggressive indictment," said Jeremy Jasper's attorney Tom Findley.
The Jaspers charges include 108 counts of wire fraud along with three counts of theft of trade secrets. Their next court date is set for Feb. 17. In that time, they can continue to operate NavaED, but can't release any study guides or help with the FTCE or FELE.
Right now, there are no plans for addressing the teachers that benefited from NavaED's study guides.
The U.S. Attorney's Office listed Florida A&M University as one of the schools contracted with NavaED.
“We were not aware of any wrongdoing. Now we are aware that the company is under scrutiny by federal authorities, we will not have any further contact with them,” said College of Education Dean Dr. Allyson Watson.
Florida A&M University said it spent $9,000 doing business with the company for two years.
This is a developing story.