Mariners Submit Guilty Pleas In CG Test Score-Fixing Scheme

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced February 2 that 16 defendants named in a test score-fixing scheme at a U.S. Coast Guard exam center in Mandeville, La., have submitted guilty pleas.

U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana Barry W. Ashe accepted the guilty pleas over the course of three days in late January. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District, the following defendants pleaded 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 and Robert Winters.

As part of the defendants’ guilty pleas, they admitted to obtaining the licenses by paying for “false Coast Guard exam scores,” according to the announcement. Fraudulently obtained licenses included those authorizing mariners to serve as the master of vessels of any tonnage in any waters, chief mate aboard vessels of any tonnage in any area and first assistant engineer of vessels of any horsepower in any area.

As alleged in the original indictment, announced in November 2020, the mariners worked with Coast Guard credentialing specialist Dorothy Smith, who would enter passing test scores, in connection with a network of intermediaries, in exchange for bribes.

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In the original indictment, Smith and six others were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. A total of 24 mariners were named in the indictment and charged with “receiving, possessing and intending to unlawfully use mariner licenses, to which they were not lawfully entitled.” The indictment alleges a network of intermediaries would identify mariners willing to pay for favorable exam scores. They would then send money and the requests to Smith, who would file false reports in a Coast Guard computer system stating the mariners had taken and passed certain exams, the indictment alleges.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office emphasized that Smith has only been charged and her guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sentencing for the 16 mariners is set for April and May. The maximum penalty for each conviction is five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release and a $100 special assessment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chandra Menon is directing the prosecution, and the Coast Guard Investigative Service is investigating the case.