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Five educators with EPISD ties arrested in apparent fraud scheme

Former Canutillo ISD superintendent in FBI custody. Photo Credit: El Paso Times

Five local educators were arrested Wednesday morning in an apparent cheating scheme similar to the one that has plagued the El Paso Independent School District for more than five years.

Among those arrested were Damon Murphy, the former associate superintendent for EPISD; John Tanner, the former principal at Austin High School; Mark Tegmeyer, a former assistant principal at Austin High School and the current assistant principal at Horizon Middle School in the Clint school district; Diane Thomas, a former assistant principal at Austin High School; and Nancy Love, the previous assistant principal of discipline and attendance at Austin High School. Love is currently the assistant principal at Maxine Silva Health Magnet High School.

According to jail records, Murphy and Tanner face charges of conspiracy, Tegmeyer faces a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, Thomas is charged with witness retaliation and Love faces a charge of conspiracy to retaliate against a witness.

All five are expected to be in court at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in front of Judge Miguel Torres.

A cheating scandal at Bowie High School, which is part of EPISD, made news in 2009.

Former EPISD Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

He served a 3 1/2-year prison sentence and was released from custody in 2014.

The FBI found that some students were wrongfully held back or promoted to the next grade so they wouldn't have to take the 10th-grade TAKS test, which is used to grade school districts.

Other students were denied admittance to schools or discouraged from enrollment in order to boost test scores.

"Today's actions by the FBI further places EPISD on a path to recovery after years of uncertainty. We have and continue to work with the authorities to make sure that any wrongdoing that happened within the district is made right. I want to reassure parents that the EPISD of today is a district where ethics and strong moral character are the driving force toward student success. We will not stand for anything else than that, and anyone who is unwilling to follow these standards does not belong anywhere near our children," EPISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera said in a statement.

EPISD Board President Dori Fenenbock also released a statement:

"EPISD has worked hard to mend its relationship with the students, parents and taxpayers of the district. The actions today by the FBI allow us to further put this incident behind us. But it also allows us continue to have conversations amongst one another and with the public about how we can best deal with our unfortunate recent history. We will continue the great work our current administration and school staff are doing to improve student achievement in an ethical and appropriate manner."

The Clint Independent School District released a statement in regard to Tegmeyer's arrest:

"On April 22, 2016, the Clint Independent School District became aware that current District Administrator Mark Tegmeyer was indicted. The specifics of Mr. Tegmeyer's indictment are unknown to the district at this time. However, the district can confirm that none of the alleged actions (that gave) rise to Mr. Tegmeyer's indictment occurred while he has been employed by the district. If the district needs to cooperate with any criminal investigation, any and all information requested will be provided to the law enforcement authorities. At this time, Mr. Tegmeyer has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the disposition of the criminal charges against him.

"Mr. Tegmeyer was placed on administrative leave on Monday, April 25. He has been with Clint ISD since August 2014 as a teacher and became assistant principal at Horizon Middle School in January 2016."

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