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The U.S. Department of Justice has charged 31 individuals, including three former Coast Guard employees, related to a test score-fixing scheme at a United States Coast Guard exam center.
The indictment was announced Monday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The indictment alleges that Dorothy Smith, as part of her position as a Coast Guard credentialing specialist at an exam center in Mandeville, Louisiana, was authorized 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 test mariners’ knowledge and training to safely operate vessels under the authority of licenses.
According to the indictment, for over seven years, Smith engaged in a scheme that involved taking 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, according to the District Attorney’s statement on the indictments.
“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,” the statement said.
The indictment further alleges that two former Coast Guard employees, identified as 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—identified as 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.
The indictment charges another twenty-four current and former merchant mariners with unlawfully receiving officer-level licenses. As alleged, each received false scores from Smith, with some receiving false scores on multiple occasions.
All seven (Smith, Johnson, McCrary, Bell, Wooten, Robinson and Williams) are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States.
The other 24 defendants are charged with receiving, possessing, and intending to unlawfully use mariner licenses, to which they were not lawfully entitled. The Department of Justice identified those defendants as:
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, three years of supervised release and a mandatory $100.00 special assessment.
The case is being investigated by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chandra Menon is in charge of the prosecution.
The indictment comes about a month after prosecutors in Virginia charged four men for their roles in a conspiracy to sell phony Coast Guard merchant mariner credentials in Norfolk as part of a scheme that allegedly netted them more than $200,000. The four men are charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
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