The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana reports that 16 defendants have pleaded guilty in relation to a test score-fixing scheme at a United States Coast Guard exam center (see earlier story).
United States District Judge Barry W. Ashe accepted the pleas on January 20, 27, and 28, 2021. Each of the following defendants pleading guilty to unlawfully receiving an officer-level mariner license:
- Jonathan Abbey
- Rafael Atkins
- Anthony Brown
- Charles Franks
- Jerry Fudge
- David Galvan
- Justin Gandy
- Cardell Hughes
- Edward Jones,
- Brandon Mack
- Hugo Marquez
- Miles Marts
- Deverick Morrow
- Octavian Richards
- Antwaine Travis
- Robert Winters
As admitted during their guilty pleas, says the U.S. Attorney’s office, these defendants obtained licenses by paying for false Coast Guard exam scores. The exams were designed to test their knowledge and training to safely operate under the authority of the licenses.
According to court filings, the fraudulently obtained licenses included, among others, those authorizing mariners to serve as the master of vessels of any tonnage in any waters, to serve as the chief mate of vessels of any tonnage in any waters, and to serve as the first assistant engineer of vessels of any horsepower in any waters.
As alleged in the indictment, these defendants’ false scores were entered by Coast Guard credentialing specialist Dorothy Smith. The indictment alleges that Smith accepted bribes in exchange for entering passing test scores and used a network of intermediaries to connect her to license applicants.
The United States Attorney’s office reiterated that the indictment’s allegation against Smith is merely a charge and her guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Judge Ashe set sentencing dates for April and May, 2021. The maximum penalty for each conviction is five years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.
This case is being investigated by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chandra Menon is in charge of the prosecution.