NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Four people in Norfolk, including a school administrator, are facing several charges involving what federal investigators say was a conspiracy to sell phony Coast Guard merchant mariner credentials.
According to court documents, Lamont Godfrey, 42, of Portsmouth, Eugene Johnson, 45, of Norfolk, Shunmanique Willis, 43, of Texas, and Alonzo Williams, 45, of Louisiana, were all involved in creating counterfeit certificates from the Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy (MAMA) and selling them to merchant mariners for a profit.
The MAMA is a private state-of-the-art maritime training center, offering mariners over 100 U.S. Coast Guard approved deck and engineering courses needed for merchant mariners to hold various positions on merchant vessels.
Godfrey himself worked for the MAMA as the school’s Chief Administrator.
The indictment states that Godfrey allegedly used this position to create fake MAMA course certificates for mariners who had never taken the MAMA courses, in exchange for thousands of dollars in payments.
Johnson, Willis, and Williams are accused of working with Godfrey as brokers to find additional mariners willing to buy the fake certificates. In exchange for their efforts, Johnson, Willis, and Williams all received a cut of the illicit proceeds from the scheme.
In total, the conspiracy netted over $200,000 in profits from the production of these counterfeit MAMA certificates and involved over 150 mariners purchasing fraudulent qualifications.
All were charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
If convicted, they face a mandatory minimum of two years in prison.
Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy issued the following statement:
“Mr. Godfrey, an employee (admin assistant) was terminated when we were made aware of the charges and have been working side by side as partners with the authorities since that day. 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. The fraud perpetrated and circulating these certificates is incredibly troubling. The mariners who purchased these fake certificates from Mr. GodFrey and Co. did not go through the state of art training that Mid-Atlantic is known for delivering. Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy is a victim of Mr. Godfrey and his co-defendants actions. We are working closely with the Coast Guard to identify illegitimate certificates and most importantly and immediately to identify the mariners who got these fake certificates to get them off our waterways. The established processes are all currently under review and, as noted above, we are working with all involved to improve the certification processes.”
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