terrorists, illegals and con artists(like identity thieves)all buy licenses from DMV employees, pretty common practice
Driver's-license fraud investigated
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Feb 5, 2006
The Department of Motor Vehicles is sending a team of investigators to Norfolk to find out how agency employees could allegedly get away with selling fraudulent driver's licenses.
"They're going to turn those offices upside down," DMV Commissioner D.B. Smit said in an interview.
And "when these people are arrested, we don't stop at that," he said.
The lives of a lot of drivers could also be turned upside down.
People who received their first Virginia driver's license from three DMV clerks arrested in Norfolk last week on charges of trafficking in phony licenses may have to reapply for their driving permits.
In such cases, the agency contacts affected individuals telling them to come to a DMV office with the required application documents and be tested for their licenses.
Those who do not respond, or whose identity DMV cannot verify, will have their licenses canceled, Smit said.
DMV will likely need months, however, to determine how many people received original licenses from the now-fired customer-service representatives, according to agency spokeswoman Pam Goheen.
Cleaning up after previous DMV fraud cases required the agency to contact thousands of license holders, and the agency eventually revoked more than 1,000 licenses.
An agent from DMV's special investigations unit, an internal auditor and a field operations supervisor will make up the team checking on practices at Norfolk's Military Circle and Widgeon Road customer service centers, Smit said.
"If we find that any employees did not follow agency policies and procedures," Goheen said, "they could face disciplinary action."
"I'm absolutely furious when we have these arrests," a clearly emotional Smit said Friday. "It's a personal thing. You feel let down."
With its internal auditing staff and 70 of its own law-enforcement agents, the department is steadily flushing out crooks from among its workers, he said.
Starting in 1999, the agency began doing criminal background checks on its employees with the Virginia State Police, and since 2003, the agency has run their fingerprints through the FBI, Goheen said.
DMV takes the driver's-license corruption seriously. "If you've broken the law, you're going to go to jail," Smit tells the department's new employees.
Since 2002, 13 DMV employees have been arrested on charges of illegally dealing in driver's licenses, and 10 have been convicted so far.
With more than 2,000 employees, the DMV annually issues about 495,000 driver's licenses and 197,000 ID cards. The state has about 5.1 million licensed drivers.
The agency is asking the General Assembly for $33 million to replace its aging and unsecure computer system to make it harder for crooks or terrorists to get phony -- but official -- ID documents.
"Driver's licenses are probably the Cadillac . . . of the tools that crooks can get, that they can peddle, that they can embezzle with," state Deputy Attorney General Richard Campbell said. "It's a junior-varsity passport."
Seven of the 19 men involved in the Sept. 11 attacks had -- legitimately -- obtained Virginia identification cards from the DMV under rules that the state quickly eliminated.
The heightened national security pressure to eliminate driver's-license fraud since Sept. 11 has had a cost impact on the market for illegal documents.
"It's a general economic principle that when something is scarce it becomes more valuable," said Pamela Kiecker, professor of marketing and business law at Virginia Commonwealth University.
A state-issued ID -- however bogus -- can command premium black-market prices, Kiecker said.
That's exactly what DMV has seen. "The going rate [for an illegal Virginia driver's license] used to be a couple of hundred dollars," Goheen said. "Now it's a couple of thousand."
On Tuesday, after a joint investigation by DMV and the FBI, law-enforcement officers arrested Teshara Leann Sykes, 21, and Tonita Sharmaine Sykes, 23, of Norfolk and Jamille Candice Lowther, 29, of Hampton and charged them with conspiring to produce false identification documents.
The Sykeses and Lowther were employees of the state Department of Motor Vehicles and had worked at the Military Circle and Widgeon Road DMV branches in Norfolk.
Also charged were Andy Earl "Trini" Brathwaite, 27, and Felix Reyes, 45. Both are illegal immigrants from Trinidad, according to a statement by Paul J. McNulty, the U.S. attorney for Virginia's Eastern District.
The Sykeses, who are sisters, and Lowther were engaged in a scheme to illegally issue Virginia driver's licenses, the criminal complaint said, while Brathwaite and Reyes found buyers for the illegal licenses and negotiated the fees the purchasers paid.
DMV has just adopted a policy prohibiting employees from supervising or being supervised by any family member, Smit said. That policy also recommends that family members not work in the same customer-service center.
False identities can aid criminals in committing other, more serious crimes that endanger or defraud the public, according to Cassandra M. Chandler, special agent in charge of the FBI's Norfolk office.
The Norfolk investigation is continuing, McNulty's office said, and agents are searching for others involved in this scheme.
hehe i instantly thought of the movie Domino
"The DMV is controled by sassy black fat women"
of course im just assuming and am probably some sort of racist for that