NEW ORLEANS – The United States Attorney’s Office announced, on November 20, 2020, the indictment of 31 individuals related to a test score-fixing scheme at a United States Coast Guard exam center.
As alleged in the indictment, DOROTHY SMITH was employed by the Coast Guard as a credentialing specialist at an exam center in Mandeville, Louisiana. SMITH’s position authorized her to enter scores for examinations that merchant mariners were legally required to pass in order to obtain licenses to serve in various positions on vessels. The examinations tested mariners’ knowledge and training to safely operate under the authority of licenses.
According to the indictment, for over seven years, SMITH engaged in a scheme to defraud the United States. SMITH took bribes to fix exam scores, enabling license applicants to bypass the required testing. This resulted in the applicants illegally obtaining a range of licenses for officer-level positions, including the most important positions on vessels, such as master, chief mate, and chief engineer.
As alleged in the indictment, SMITH used a network of intermediaries to connect her to maritime workers who were willing to pay for false exam scores. The intermediaries would funnel money and the mariners’ requests to SMITH, who would falsely report in a Coast Guard computer system that the mariners had passed the exams.
According to the indictment, two former Coast Guard employees, ELDRIDGE JOHNSON and BEVERLY MCCRARY, acted as intermediaries for SMITH, with MCCRARY participating in the scheme both during and after her Coast Guard employment and JOHNSON participating following his Coast Guard employment. Additionally, four maritime industry workers—ALEXIS BELL, MICHEAL WOOTEN a/k/a Michael Wooten, SHARRON ROBINSON, and ALONZO WILLIAMS—acted as intermediaries in the scheme and also had their own scores fixed by SMITH.
In addition to the defendants referenced above, the indictment charges twenty-four current and former merchant mariners with unlawfully receiving officer-level licenses. As alleged in the indictment, each of these individuals received false scores from SMITH, with some receiving false scores on multiple occasions.
SMITH, JOHNSON, MCCRARY, BELL, WOOTEN, ROBINSON, and WILLIAMS are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States.
The following defendants are charged with receiving, possessing, and intending to unlawfully use mariner licenses, to which they were not lawfully entitled: JONATHAN ABBEY, RAFAEL ATKINS, ANTHONY BROWN, JAMES CARR, CHARLES FRANKS, JERRY FUDGE, DAVID GALVAN, JUSTIN GANDY, ANTHONY GARCES, CARDELL HUGHES, HARRY JOHNSON, EDWARD JONES, ALEXIA LOVETT, BRANDON MACK, HUGO MARQUEZ, MILES MARTS, DEVERICK MORROW, FREDRICK NETTLES, STINSON PAYNE, OCTAVIAN RICHARDS, QUANG TRAN, ANTWAINE TRAVIS, SHUNMANIQUE WILLIS, and ROBERT WINTERS.
If convicted, each defendant faces a sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment, $ 250,000.00 fine, (3) three years of supervised release and a mandatory $100.00 special assessment.
The United States Attorney’s Office reiterated that the indictment is merely a charge and that the defendants’ guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is being investigated by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chandra Menon is in charge of the prosecution.