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Ring Leaders Plead Guilty in Coast Guard Mariner Test-Fixing Scheme

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 6949
March 1, 2022

The two former Coast Guard employees fixed test scores resulting in more than 50 mariners receiving unearned endorsements for various officer-level positions on ships.

Two former U.S. Coast Guard employees have pleaded guilty in an intricate criminal conspiracy to fix merchant mariner test scores at a Coast Guard exam center.

U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced the guilty pleas of Dorothy Smith and Beverly McCrary, both former credentialing specialists at a Coast Guard exam center in Mandeville, Louisiana.

In pleading guilty, Smith admitted to taking bribes to enter false scores for examinations of more than 50 merchant mariners who were legally required to pass them in order to obtain licenses for various officer-level positions on vessels.

Smith used a series of intermediaries to accept the bribes, rarely meeting with the mariners in person. Mariners participating in the scheme would usually not even appear for the exams, yet Smith would create Coast Guard records and data entries to make it appear as though they appeared and tested. Smith would make up passing scores and enter them in a Coast Guard computer system, then notify the Coast Guard via email falsely stating that the mariners had passed the exams and should receive the endorsements.

McCrary, who pleaded guilty to being one of Smith’s intermediaries, would gather money and information about the desired endorsements and then provide the information and a portion of the money to Smith.

McCrary almost always required upfront cash payments, but on occasion would accept other forms of payment such as coolers of fresh caught shrimp. In an effort to hide the scheme, McCrary also instructed mariners to not contact the exam center regarding their applications and to not work on vessels during the days they were supposed to be testing. They also used code words when discussing on the telephone.

In order to recruit some of the mariners, McCrary would strike up conversations with mariners when they came to the exam center. She also developed her own network of intermediaries beneath her, four of whom have all pleaded guilty and collectively admitting to arrange false scores for a total of 31 mariners, including themselves.

The scheme went on from at least April 2012 until May 2019, causing more than 50 mariners to receive false scores, with some mariners obtaining false scores on multiple occasions. Almost all of the licenses were officer-level, including positions such as master, chief mate, and chief engineer.

Smith and McCrary have pleaded guilty before the Honorable Barry W. Ashe to conspiracy to defraud the United States and could face sentences of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Earlier this year, Judge Ashe sentenced other two mariners who had pleaded guilty to acting as McCrary’s intermediaries, sentencing them to 54 and 42 months in prison, respectively. Two others were each sentenced to one year of supervised release to follow their prison terms.

In January, Judge Ashe also sentenced two of the mariners who received fraudulent licenses to six months in prison tollowed by one year supervised release and 100 hours of community service.

The original indictment in November 2020 charged 31 individuals in the scheme, including three former Coast Guard employees and 28 maritime workers. With these latest guilty pleas, all have now pleaded guilty and most have been sentenced.

Seven of the eight defendants charged in a separate indictment handed down last November have pleaded guilty to obtaining unearned endorsements through false scores.

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