Former EPISD Administrator Damon Murphy pleads guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud the US

Damon Murphy guilty plea

EL PASO, Texas - Former EPISD Associate Superintendent and Canutillo ISD Superintendent, Damon Murphy, pleaded guilty to a single count of Conspiracy to Defraud the United States.

Murphy is facing a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and supervised release of up to three years. Murphy's sentencing date was scheduled for April 4, 2017.

ABC-7 asked Murphy several questions outside the courtroom Friday. He declined to answer, only saying "Hopefully, this will bring some closure to the students affected."

FBI agents arrested Murphy in April 2016.

While at EPISD, Murphy allegedly gave marching orders to principals to prevent certain "at-risk" students from advancing to the 10th grade, the year students take the TAKS test. The goal was to avoid having these students take the state-mandated tests in an effort to improve district scores.

The purpose of the cheating scheme, orchestrated under former EPISD Superintendent Dr. Lorenzo Garcia, was to artificially inflate student test scores by improperly promoting students or holding them back, altering their transcripts, enrolling them in the wrong grade or forcing them to drop out altogether.

District administrators would then receive bonuses when the district met state and federal standards due to the bogus scores

Murphy was originally charged with Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, Mail Fraud, and Mail Fraud Aiding and Abetting. Later in 2016, Murphy's attorneys requested a change of venue, citing the overwhelming amount of news coverage as "inflammatory and pervasive."

Garcia was sentenced in 2012 to 3 1/2 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to federal charges of steering a contract to his mistress and fixing state and federal test scores.

A judge ordered Garcia to pay $180,000 in restitution to EPISD and $56,500 to the state. The amount meant to be paid to the state equals the same amount of bonus money he received from reaching test scores, the judge said.

Federal officials said Friday all five of Murphy's co-defendants remain under a six-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed in April 2016.   

They are 41-year-old former EPISD Assistant Superintendent James Anderson; 52-year-old former Austin High School Principal John Tanner; 52-year-old former Austin Assistant Principal Mark Phillip  Tegmeyer; 53-year-old former Austin Assistant Principal Diane Thomas; and 48-year-old former Austin Assistant  Principal Nancy Love.

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