Another exam scam defendant receives prison termWritten by Nick Blenkey
In the latest development in the long-running exam scam case involving a test score-fixing scheme at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Regional Exam Center (REC) New Orleans in Mandeville, La., former Coast Guard employee Beverly McCrary was sentenced on December 8 to 54 months’ imprisonment for Conspiracy to Defraud the United States. McCrary, age 64, was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release following her prison term and to pay a $100 mandatory special assessment fee.
According to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, McCrary had been employed as a credentialing specialist at REC (Regional Exam Center) New Orleans which administered examinations that merchant mariners were legally required to pass in order to obtain licenses to serve in various positions on vessels. The examinations tested mariners’ knowledge and training to safely operate under the authority of the licenses.
McCrary and two other Coast Guard employees, Dorothy Smith and Eldridge Johnson, participated in a scheme to sell mariners false passing exam scores. In October 2022, Judge Ashe sentenced Smith and Johnson prison terms of 60 months and 72 months respectively.
During her guilty plea, McCrary admitted that her role in the scheme was as an intermediary for Smith, who entered the false scores. McCrary would gather mariners’ money and information about the desired licenses and then provide the information and a portion of the money to Smith. McCrary participated in the scheme both during her employment at REC New Orleans and also following her 2015 retirement.
McCrary almost always required upfront cash payments, but on occasion would accept non-monetary things of value. For example, from one mariner, McCrary accepted a cooler of shrimp in exchange for arranging false test scores.
To make it less likely that the scheme would be discovered, McCrary instructed mariners: to not contact the exam center regarding their license applications; to not work on vessels during the days they were supposed to be testing; and to use code words when discussing the scheme on the telephone.
McCrary recruited some of the mariners while she was on duty at REC New Orleans. For example, when mariners came to the exam center to address matters related to their license applications, McCrary would strike up conversations with them and proceed to solicit them to engage in the scheme.
McCrary also developed her own network of intermediaries beneath her in the scheme. These included Alexis Bell, Micheal Wooten, and Sharron Robinson, who all pleaded guilty to conspiracy and who collectively admitted to having McCrary arrange false scores for a total of 31 mariners, including themselves. Earlier this year, Bell was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment and Wooten and Robinson were each sentenced to 54 months imprisonment. In December 2021, another intermediary, who operated under Bell in the scheme, Alonzo Williams, received a 40-month sentence for his conspiracy conviction.
In addition to the defendants mentioned above, 32 mariners were charged with, and pleaded guilty to, the felony offense of unlawful receipt of a mariner license. Some of these defendants were charged in McCrary’s case while others were charged in a separate case assigned to United States District Court Judge Eldon E. Fallon.
McCrary admitted that she engaged in the scheme from before April 2012 until May 2019 and that she caused more than 50 mariners to receive false passing scores, with some mariners obtaining false scores on multiple occasions. Each falsely-reported examination resulted in the issuance of an unearned license. The wide range of fraudulently obtained licenses for which McCrary was responsible included the Master Unlimited Oceans endorsement, which authorizes the holder to serve as the captain of vessels of any tonnage in any waters, as well as licenses for other high-level positions such as Chief Mate and Chief Engineer.
“Former Coast Guard exam center employee Beverly McCrary risked public safety for financial gain,” said U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans. “Today’s sentencing holds her accountable for her egregious breach of trust.”
“The Coast Guard Investigative Service is firmly committed to protecting the integrity of the Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credentialing system and will vigorously investigate and seek prosecution of any individuals suspected of defrauding the system” said Special Agent in Charge Brian Jeanfreau, CGIS Gulf Region. “Today’s sentencing demonstrates the tireless efforts of the Coast Guard and Department of Justice to hold those accountable who commit fraud for personal gain.”