Norfolk maritime academy administrator sold phony Coast Guard credentials in $200K scheme, feds say
By KATHERINE HAFNER | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: October 27, 2020
NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — An administrator at Norfolk’s
Godfrey is accused of using his position, including access to official seals and certifying stamps, to sell the certificates to mariners who had never taken the courses in exchange for thousands of dollars. The mariners who paid for the phony credentials were then instructed how to load them into the
For a cut of the profits, Johnson, Willis and Williams helped Godfrey find more mariners willing to buy the certificates, prosecutors said. In total the group netted over $200,000 from more than 150 mariners.
The scheme began in the summer of 2016 and continued through
Godfrey would send the fraudulent certificates in the mail through the Postal Service or commercial carriers, according to the court records. Once received, mariners could then scan and send them to the National Maritime Center via email or take them to their local Coast Guard Regional Exam Center to enter them into the system.
Mariners were charged at least several hundred dollars, up to several thousand, for each course certificate.
In court documents, prosecutors repeatedly cite text, email and telephone communications between the four accused and the mariners as evidence of the scheme, as well as wired payments and Post Office mailings containing the certificates.
The four face a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison on charges of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. If convicted, they’ll also likely have to forfeit any property bought with proceeds from the fraud.
In an emailed statement Tuesday,
“We were absolutely shocked by the revelation that we are the victims of a criminal act from an employee who had stolen from us for their own financial gain,” Nanartowich wrote. “The fraud perpetrated and circulating these certificates is incredibly troubling.”
The academy is working with the