Texas Teacher Charged with Giving Passing Grades if Students Burn Car

June 30, 2005

A chemistry teacher in Houston who was months behind on her car payments gave passing grades to two failing students after asking them to steal her Chevrolet Malibu and burn it so she could collect on its insurance, authorities alleged.

The Houston Chronicle and the Associated Press reported that officers were searching for Tramesha Lashon Fox, 32, of Kingwood, after obtaining arrest warrants on the two felony counts.

The Aldine Senior High School students, Roger Luna, 18, and Darwin Arias, 17, were also charged with arson. Luna was arrested June 28 night, and Arias was arranging to surrender.

Neither Fox nor Arias were in custody on the morning of June 29, said Deputy Kathryn Martin, spokeswoman for the Harris County Sheriff’s Department.

Fire investigators said Fox admitted during an interview to the scheme to collect the insurance proceeds.

Fox approached the students on campus in May about the plan, said senior fire investigator Dustin Deutsch of the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office. The students thought she was joking, but she continued to pursue them, he said.

On May 27, the last day of school, the students took the unlocked car from a shopping mall, drove it to a wooded area, doused it with charcoal lighter fluid and let it burn, Deutsch said.

Fox reported the theft that day. The car was found 12 days later in a wooded area near Arias’ home.

Fox bought a 2005 Toyota Corolla before she reported the other car stolen, investigators said. She owed about $20,000 on the 2003 Chevrolet, Deutsch said.

Luna and Arias had been failing Fox’s class until their final exam. Arias received a 90; Luna an 80, Deutsch said. The grades were high enough to pass the semester.

Depending on what happens to Luna and Arias in the courts, the boys would probably be placed in an alternative education center when they return to school, Aldine Independent School District spokesman Mike Keeney said.

District spokeswoman Leticia Fehling said Aldine officials were waiting to see the fire marshal’s report before making a decision on Fox’s employment status.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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