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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hundreds of illegal licenses granted in DMV scam

A scheme that took root in or around 2010 at the Department of Motor Vehicles offices of El Cajon and Rancho San Diego resulted in hundreds of standard and commercial driving licenses being granted to people who failed or never took their driving tests. Applicants “who were unwilling or unable to pass the required DMV written and driving tests would speak with the recruiters. … If they paid the fee, they would not have to take any of the required tests in order to receive a license,” federal court records state. The arrangement “created a significant public safety risk,” the records continue.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Orabona.

Last week nine people were charged with bribery and conspiracy, including a DMV supervisor, Jesse Mario Bryan, 36. Thursday, four defendants were arraigned. If convicted, they face prison time and fines of up to $250,000. Last May, 21 others involved in the same scheme were indicted; several of those defendants have since pleaded guilty.

In complaints for both related cases, investigators describe a two-tier scheme where members of the public bribed purveyors of illegal licenses, and where these middlemen bribed DMV employees for the licenses. The investigators offer some colorful details: furtive glances exchanged between alleged co-conspirators, flurries of text messages that discussed timing and pricing, and cryptic shorthand.

The text messages also suggest that the alleged participants put profits over safety: In one exchange from December, 2011, a DMV driving exam proctor named Jim Bean allegedly noted that a fake license applicant was a poor driver. “She gonna kill someone,” he wrote, a court record states. The man who was selling the woman the license and bribing the DMV replied, “Oh, I didn’t know. She said I’m driving ok. If u want u can skip it.” Bean, the DMV employee, immediately wrote back: “I need cash so as long as she gets help.” The recruiter then paid the DMV employee for a passing driving test score, court documents allege. (Continues)

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