Third Former Coast Guard Employee Pleads Guilty in Test-Fixing Case, Several Co-Defendants Sentenced
Published 6:28 am Wednesday, June 29, 2022
NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that former United States Coast Guard employee ELDRIDGE JOHNSON pleaded guilty on June 23, 2022, to one count of bribery and to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Judge Barry W. Ashe took JOHNSON’S guilty plea and scheduled sentencing for September 29, 2022. The maximum terms of imprisonment are fifteen years for bribery and five years for conspiracy. Each offense is also punishable by a fine of up to $250,000, up to three years of supervised release, and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee.
The bribery conviction relates to JOHNSON’S conduct as an examination administrator at a Mandeville, Louisiana Coast Guard exam center. JOHNSON administered examinations that merchant mariners were legally required to pass in order to obtain licenses to serve in various positions on vessels. The examinations tested mariners’ knowledge and training to safely operate under the authority of the licenses. Beginning no later than 2011 and continuing until about the time of his January 2018 retirement, JOHNSON engaged in a scheme to receive bribes from mariners who had applied for licenses. JOHNSON offered and sold various forms of improper assistance, including reporting false information to the Coast Guard and, more commonly, selling examination questions and answers to mariners before they took the tests.
JOHNSON’S conspiracy conviction relates to his post-retirement conduct, in which he acted as an intermediary for exam center employee DOROTHY SMITH in a scheme in which SMITH entered false exam scores in exchange for money. SMITH and another former Coast Guard employee who acted as SMITH’S intermediary, BEVERLY MCCRARY, pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced on September 15, 2022.
JOHNSON, SMITH, and MCCRARY were charged in an indictment along with twenty-eight mariners, the last two of which were recently sentenced: on April 28, 2022, Judge Ashe sentenced SHUNMANIQUE WILLIS, who pleaded guilty to obtaining a license though false scores entered by SMITH, to six months imprisonment to be followed by one year of supervised release and 100 hours of community service; on June 23, 2022, Judge Ashe sentenced SHARRON ROBINSON, who pleaded guilty to being an intermediary in SMITH’S scheme, to 54 months imprisonment to be followed by one year of supervised release. ROBINSON conspired to obtain false scores for herself and for nine other mariners.
A separate indictment charged eight mariners with obtaining licenses though false scores entered by SMITH. In that case, between April and June 2022, Judge Eldon E. Fallon sentenced the following seven mariners to probation: RANSFORD ACKAH, NATHANIEL DOMINICK, ODELL GRIGGS, DEVIN HEBERT, RAYNEL LEWIS, ADRIAN MACK, and MAURICE PALMER. The eighth defendant in that case, DERRICK WARD, pleaded guilty on March 4, 2022, and is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Fallon on August 4, 2022. The maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment, up to a $250,000 fine, up to three years of supervised release, and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee.
This matter is being investigated by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chandra Menon is in charge of the prosecution.