Updating standardized tests, income tax refund scam, drug trafficker gets 32 years


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A panel considering updates to standardized tests for Texas students has received suggestions ranging from offering the exams online to no longer requiring passing to graduate from high school.

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, was implemented in 2012.

The Austin American-Statesman reports the 15-member Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability has been looking at possible improvements.

Public comment will be accepted February 23rd in Austin.


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Investigators say five people from Mexico have been indicted in Texas over a $9 million income tax refund scam with ties to Georgia.

Federal prosecutors in Austin say detention hearings were scheduled to begin Thursday in Houston and Atlanta, where the suspects were arrested.

One defendant was nabbed in Georgetown, near Austin.


LAREDO, Texas (AP) — A convicted drug trafficker from Laredo has been sentenced to 32 years in prison for helping smuggle heroin from Mexico into Texas.

Juan Pablo Contreras was sentenced Friday in federal court in Laredo. The 43-year-old Contreras earlier pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy-related counts.

Federal prosecutors say Contreras would buy heroin wholesale from Mexico and distribute it in Laredo and San Antonio in a prison gang-related operation.

Authorities say more than 20 people have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison as part of a 2013 indictment.


DALLAS (AP) — Prosecutors in Texas say a Florida man must serve 14 years in prison in a $10 million timeshare scam involving victims in the U.S. and Canada.

Fabian Fleifel of Winter Springs, Florida, was sentenced Friday in federal court in Dallas.

The 45-year-old Fleifel was convicted last year of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud. A jury also convicted Fleifel of 19 counts of mail fraud telemarketing and six counts of wire fraud telemarketing.

Investigators say Fleifel hired telemarketers to make unsolicited calls to timeshare owners to solicit fees in a bogus promise of finding buyers. Investigators say more than 5,000 people, include many over age 55, were scammed.

Fleifel was among 10 defendants convicted in the case.

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