U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced Monday the guilty pleas of two middlemen in a test score-fixing scheme at a U.S. Coast Guard exam center, bringing the total number of defendants convicted in this case to 21.
Former mariners Alexis Bell and Micheal Wooten pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. Bell and Wooten each admitted to acting as an intermediary between co-defendant Beverly McCrary and merchant mariners who were willing to pay for false passing exams scores. McCrary is accused of participating in the scheme while she was employed by the Coast Guard exam center and continuing after her retirement.
Bell and Wooten acknowledged that they would take money from mariners and then pay McCrary for the false scores. Bell and Wooten 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 11 other mariners in obtaining false scores, he also had his own scores fixed on three occasions. Wooten admitted that, in addition to assisting nine other mariners in obtaining false scores, he also had his own scores fixed.
All of these false scores 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.
As alleged in the indictment, which was filed on November 20, 2020, Coast Guard credentialing specialist Dorothy Smith entered the false scores in this scheme. The indictment alleges that Smith accepted bribes and used a network of intermediaries, which included McCrary, Bell and Wooten. Smith and McCrary are scheduled to stand trial on June 28, 2021.
U.S. Attorney Evans reiterated that the indictment's allegations against Smith and McCrary are merely charges and their guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Honorable Barry W. Ashe presided over Bell's guilty plea on April 1, 2021, and set a sentencing date of July 8, 2021. Judge Ashe took Wooten's guilty plea on April 15 and set sentencing for 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.
On April 15, Judge Ashe also sentenced the first three defendants to plead guilty in this case, Anthony Brown, David Galvan and Cardell Hughes. The three had all pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining a mariner license and received a sentence of one year probation, along with 100 hours of community service.
This case is being investigated by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chandra Menon is in charge of the prosecution.