Three Sentenced, Two More Plead Guilty in USCG Exam-Fixing Scheme
Additional defendants are continuing to plead guilty while the first of the defendants have now been sentenced in a test score-fixing scheme at a United States Coast Guard exam center. Since filing an indictment in November 2020, 21 defendants have been convicted in the case brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The case centers around Coast Guard credentialing specialist Dorothy Smith, who worked at the exam center in Mandeville, Louisiana (REC New Orleans). Smith was charged with using middlemen to connect her with mariners who were willing to pay for false exam scores. Co-defendant, Beverly McCrary is accused of participating in the scheme while she was employed by the Coast Guard exam center and continuing after her retirement. Smith and McCrary are scheduled to stand trial on June 28, 2021.
The false scores created allegedly by the defendants resulted in the Coast Guard issuing unearned licenses without the required exams being passed. The exams tested mariners' knowledge and training to safely operate under the authority of licenses, which were legally required to work various positions on vessels.
In the latest developments, two former marines, Alexis Bell and Micheal Wooten, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. Each admitted to acting as an intermediary between co-defendant Beverly McCrary and merchant mariners who were willing to pay for false passing exam scores. In March, three additional mariners plead guilty to having paid to have their test scores fixed and receiving fraudulent endorsements on their licenses.
Bell and Wooten acknowledged that they would take money from mariners and then pay McCrary for the false scores. They understood that McCrary would keep a portion of that money and use the rest to bribe another exam center employee to enter the scores. Bell admitted that, in addition to assisting eleven other mariners in obtaining false scores, he also had his scores fixed on three occasions. Wooten admitted that, in addition to assisting nine other mariners in obtaining false scores, he also had his scores fixed.
A sentencing date for Bell was set for July 8 and Wooten on July 22, 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.
Separately, last week on April 15, the first three defendants to plead guilty were sentenced with each received a sentence of one year of probation, along with 100 hours of community service. Anthony Brown, David Galvan, and Cardell Hughes had individually admitted to illegally obtaining a mariner license by making payments to their co-defendants.
In total, 31 individuals were indicted in connection with the case.