Four individuals have been charged in a conspiracy to sell phony Coast Guard merchant mariner credentials in Norfolk, Va., the U.S. Department of Justice announced yesterday.
According to allegations in the unsealed indictment, Lamont Godfrey, 42, of Portsmouth, Va., Eugene Johnson, 45, of Norfolk, Va., Shunmanique Willis, 43, of Texas, and Alonzo Williams, 45, of Louisiana, acted in concert to create counterfeit certificates from the Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy (MAMA) in Norfolk and sell them to merchant mariners for a profit. MAMA is a private state-of-the-art maritime training center, offering mariners over 100 Coast Guard-approved deck and engineering courses needed for merchant mariners to hold various positions on merchant vessels. Godfrey worked for the MAMA as the school’s chief administrator.
According to the indictment, Godfrey used this position to create fake MAMA course certificates for mariners who had never taken the MAMA courses, in exchange for thousands of dollars in payments. The mariners would receive the fake certificates along with instructions on how to load them in the Coast Guard systems and be credited with a fraudulent Coast Guard qualification. Johnson, Willis, and Williams worked with Godfrey as brokers to find additional mariners willing to buy the fake certificates. In exchange for their efforts, Johnson, Willis, and Williams all received a cut of the illicit proceeds from the scheme. In total, the conspiracy netted over $200,000 in profits from the production of these counterfeit MAMA certificates and involved over 150 mariners purchasing fraudulent qualifications.
Godfrey, Johnson, Willis, and Williams are charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. If convicted, they face a mandatory minimum of two years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines and other statutory factors.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Marty J. Martinez, special agent in charge, Coast Guard Investigative Service, Chesapeake Region, made the announcement.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph L. Kosky is prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:20-cr-95.