31 Indicted in Connection With U.S. Coast Guard Exam-Fixing Scheme

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Published Nov 24, 2020 4:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana has indicted 31 individuals in connection with a test score-fixing scheme at a U.S. Coast Guard exam center.

According to prosecutors, a Coast Guard civilian employee named Dorothy Smith was employed at the exam center in Mandeville, Louisiana (REC New Orleans). Her role authorized her to enter test scores for merchant mariners' licensing examinations. Smith allegedly took bribes to "fix" the exam scores, allowing license applicants to bypass testing. More than two dozen applicants allegedly bribed Smith in order to secure licenses for officer-level roles, including master, chief mate, and chief engineer endorsements. 

The indictment suggests that the arrangement was not an occasional matter, and was not always initiated by the payee. Smith allegedly used middlemen to connect her with mariners who were willing to pay for false exam scores. These 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. 

Prosecutors identified two former Coast Guard employees, Eldridge Johnson and Beverly McCrary, as intermediaries for Smith's scheme. Four mariners - identified as Alexis Bell, Micheal (or Michael) Wooten, Sharron Robinson and Alonzo Williams - also alledgely acted as middlemen for Smith, in addition to benefiting from her score-fixing services themselves. 

The indictment also charges another twenty-four current and former merchant mariners with unlawfully receiving officer-level licenses through Smith's intervention - some of them on multiple occasions. If convicted, each defendant faces a sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.