Employees at two San Diego County Department of Motor Vehicles offices were among 21 people charged Wednesday in a long-running bribery conspiracy that resulted in the production of hundreds of fraudulent licenses for applicants who failed -- or did not take -- the required driver's license test.
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The three-count federal complaint alleges that five Department of Motor Vehicles employees at the El Cajon office on Graves Avenue and the Rancho San Diego office on Jamacha Road falsely entered both "passing" written and "passing" driving test scores for applicants in exchange for bribes ranging up to $3,000 per license.
10News was outside the El Cajon office Wednesday morning as FBI agents searched the cars and belongings of several DMV employees.
The 16 other defendants were applicants who allegedly paid bribes to receive fraudulent driver's licenses or recruiters who allegedly brokered the corrupt deals for fraudulent licenses by getting money from the applicants and paying bribes to the DMV employees, according to the complaint.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said the scheme may have been going on for at least two years.
"The bribes were solicited from applicants who had either failed the written and the driving test, or who in many cases simply hadn't taken the test," said Duffy. "The recruiters, as alleged in the indictment, actively went out and recruited individuals, driver's license applicants, who are not able to obtain driver's license lawfully."
According to court documents, the scheme involved the production of both "Class C" licenses for regular drivers and Commercial "Class A" licenses.
Hundreds of applicants paid recruiters about $400-$500 for each fraudulent "Class C" license, according to prosecutors, who said applicants seeking Commercial "Class A" licenses typically paid recruiters $2,500-$$3,000.
The complaint alleges that the DMV employees accepted bribes paid by the applicants despite the obvious risk to public safety. For example, one DMV employee admitted to a recruiter that an applicant taking a driving test was so dangerous that she was "[going to] kill someone," according to the indictment.
The DMV employee nevertheless provided a fraudulent license to the applicant in exchange for a bribe because he "needed cash," according to an affidavit in support of the complaint.
"It is never easy to stand up here to talk about corruption within your own agency," said Katherine Door, chief of the California DMV Investigations Division. Door was in San Diego from Sacramento for the announcement.
All 21 defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and to produce unauthorized identification documents, and some are also charged with bribery.
They each face up to five years in prison if convicted, Duffy said.
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