Three more plead guilty in Coast Guard exam-fixing scheme

(NEW ORLEANS) — Three people pleaded guilty on March 5 on charges related to a test-score fixing scheme at a U.S. Coast Guard exam center in Mandeville, La., bringing the total number of defendants convicted in this matter to 19.

Sharron Robinson, a former maritime industry worker, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. In a factual basis filed into the record, Robinson admitted that she acted as an intermediary between Coast Guard exam center employee Beverly McCrary and merchant mariners who were willing to pay for false passing exam scores. 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.

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Robinson acknowledged that she would take money from mariners and then pay McCrary for the false scores. Robinson understood that McCrary would keep a portion of that money and use the rest to bribe another exam center employee to enter the scores. Sometimes Robinson put mariners directly in touch with McCrary to arrange their payments. Robinson admitted that, in addition to assisting nine other mariners in obtaining false scores, she also had her own scores fixed. All of these false scores resulted in the Coast Guard issuing unearned licenses.

On Nov. 20, 2020, as alleged in the indictment, Coast Guard credentialing specialist Dorothy Smith entered the false scores in this scheme. The indictment further alleged that Smith accepted bribes and used a network of intermediaries. Smith and McCrary are scheduled to stand trial on June 28.

Previously, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the guilty pleas of 16 defendants which occurred on Jan. 20, 27 and 28 for unlawfully receiving and possessing endorsements as part of the scheme. Since that announcement, on Feb. 4 and March 4, 2021, respectively, two more defendants, Anthony Garces and Quang Tran, also pleaded guilty to that charge.

U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans reiterated that the indictment’s allegations against Smith and McCrary are merely charges and their guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Judge Barry W. Ashe presided over the guilty pleas and set sentencing dates of May 27 for Garces and June 10 for Robinson and Tran. The maximum penalty for each defendant 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.

— U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana 

By Professional Mariner Staff