Ex-Coast Guard employee pleads guilty in test-fixing case

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former U.S. Coast Guard employee has pleaded guilty in a test score-fixing scheme that happened over seven years at an exam center in Louisiana, federal prosecutors said.

U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans, in a news release Tuesday, said Eldridge Johnson entered the plea June 23 to one count each of bribery and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Johnson faces up to 15 years for the bribery charge, five years for the conspiracy charge and a fine of up to $250,000, Evans’ office said.

Sentencing is set for Sept. 29.

Johnson was an examination administrator at an exam center for the agency in Mandeville, Louisiana. He gave exams merchant mariners were required to pass in order to obtain licenses to work in various positions on ships.

Beginning in 2011 and continuing until about the time of his retirement in January 2018, Johnson engaged in a scheme to receive bribes from mariners who had applied for licenses, Evans said. Johnson offered and sold various forms of assistance, including reporting false information to the Coast Guard and selling exam questions and answers to mariners before they took the tests, he said.

The conspiracy conviction relates to his post-retirement conduct, in which he acted as an intermediary for employee Dorothy Smith who entered false exam scores in exchange for money. Prosecutors said Smith took bribes to fix exam scores and used intermediaries to connect her to maritime workers who were willing to pay.

Smith and another employee, Beverly McCrary, pleaded guilty in the case and are scheduled for sentencing Sept. 15.

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