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FBI breaks up a ring operating since 2009 in the El Cajon Dept. of Motor Vehicles selling drivers licenses in the parking lot to customers of a local driving school that trains Middle East customers "how to drive"—usually without their ever having to take a driver's test.
On Feb. 25, 2014, FBI agents led by Special Agents Mike Peters and Kim George arrested four California State employees at the El Cajon Dept. of Motor Vehicles and Kuvan Piomari who owned the US Driving School in El Cajon. The FBI is calling this an ongoing investigation as agents search for several accomplices.

Beginning shortly after Obama took office in 2009, Piomari let it be known to his "students" that "for a price," he could guarantee the student a genuine, California driver's license—even if he failed his driving test The drivers' licenses would cost the buyer anywhere from $500 to $2,500 depending, one imagines, on just how "illegal" they were. I imagine a simple undocumented illegal wanting a permanent tax-free life if the United States would readily pay $500 for a driver's license that would get him through an ICE highway checkpoint. A Middle East terrorist trying to buy an airline ticket would quickly pay $2,500 or more for a driver's license that would secure him a seat on a 757 to anywhere in the United States,

As it turned out, most of the US Driving School "students" never even had to take any test thanks to Piomari's "connections" at the DMV. His connection? DMV Examiner Jeffrey Bednarek and three other DMV employees. Bednarek would simply give them a passing grade on the written and behind-the-wheel driving test which they never took, and then escort them to his accomplices. behind the counter where the license applicant would get a regular or commercial driver's license. Bednerek's accomplices. would then falsify whatever records needed to be fabricated at that end of the process.

The four were arrested according to FBI. Court documents which revealed that the four DMV employees and Piomari took part in a long-running bribery conspiracy that generated hundreds of genuine, albeit phony, ill-gotten drivers' licenses over a period of at least three years before law enforcement got involved. When the DMV transferred a new manager to the El Cajon DMV in 2012, Peters said, "...she instantly knew something wasn't right. That manager alerted the DMV's investigative arm who, in turn, called the FBI."

Using undercover operatives and federal court-approved surveillance techniques which included wiretapping the phones of the US Driving School and the phones of the suspected DMV participants, and those who received the unearned right to drive on US highways and byways. In all, 30 defendants (which included several people who gamed the system by bribing State employees to provide them with a driver's license) were charged. Some of the "students" who paid for a driver's license, Special Agent Kim George said, "were bad drivers; and some paid because they were too lazy to take the test." And some apparently knew they would fail either the written test or the driving skills test. And others knew they didn't have sufficient data to prove they were eligible to even apply for a driver's license.

Special Agent Peters noted some of the students were buying commercial licenses that allowed them to drive tanker trucks which "...took things to a different level in terms of safety. We hope this case sends a message," Peters added, "this type of corruption will not be tolerated."

Bednarek and another DMV employee, Jim Bean, pleaded guilty. Bean was sentenced to 18 months for his role in the scheme. Bednarek will be sentenced in April. Bednarek reportedly produced more than 100 fraudulent drivers licenses for which the drivers' license applicants paid over $50,000. "They'd gotten away with it for so long," Agent George said, "that they were extremely confident and had no plans to stop. Sometimes the corrupt DMV employees would issue multiple bogus licenses a day. They would leave work with $500 in cash in their pocket," she commented, adding, "That could be one day a week, or two. They were doing very well."

The case is still ongoing because the FBI learned that many of the applicants for drivers' licenses were not Americans. In one instance, Peters said, "One guy flew in from Dallas, took a cab to the [El Cajon] DMV office, paid for his license and flew back to Dallas a few hours later. It was so blatant," he added, "that our surveillance showed the driving school operator brokering multiple deals in the DMV parking lot."

 


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Just Say No
Copyright © 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
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