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Five more people have pleaded guilty related to a mariner credentialing test score-fixing scheme at a U.S. Coast Guard exam center, bringing the total number of convictions in the case to 26.
The Justice Department announced this week that on June 10, 2021, maritime industry worker Alonzo Williams, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. In documents submitted to the court, Williams admitted that he acted as an intermediary in the scheme to bribe a Coast Guard employee to enter false scores for another mariner. He also acknowledged that he had his own exam scores fixed.
On June 24, another five defendants in the case, identified as Alexia Lovett, Fredrick Nettles, Stinson Payne, and Shunmanique Willis, admitted to participating in the scheme by using false exam scores to obtain mariner licenses.
The Coast Guard exams tested mariners’ knowledge and training to safely and legally operate under the authority of merchant mariner licenses.
The Justice Department in November charged 31 individuals in relation to the scheme. The indictment alleges that Dorothy Smith, a former Coast Guard credentialing specialist at an exam center in Mandeville, Louisiana, used a “network of intermediaries” to take bribes to enter false test scores that the defendants were required to pass in order to obtain various officer-level licenses, such as master, chief mate, and chief engineer.
Along with Smith and six “intermediaries” charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, the indictment charges twenty-four current and former merchant mariners with unlawfully receiving licenses.
So far, the first sixteen people pleaded guilty in the case in January, followed by another in March and two more in April. Smith and two other former Coast Guard employees, Eldridge Johnson and Beverly McCrary, who allegedly acted as intermediaries for Smith, are awaiting trial.
Judge Barry Ashe presided over June’s five guilty pleas and set sentencing dates of September and October 2021. The maximum penalty for each defendant is five years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.
This case is being investigated by the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chandra Menon is in charge of the prosecution.
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