Yet another in wave of CA DMV bribery scandals
The state Department of Motor Vehicles used to be a symbol of bureaucratic inefficiency, the subject of decades of jokes by Jay Leno and other California-based comedians. But then something unexpected happened: The DMV adopted to the computer era better than most state agencies and is often easy to use nowadays, both in scheduling appointments and in handling registration and some license renewals online.
Now, however, the agency is becoming notorious for another problem: chronic corruption. This is from an Aug. 11 AP report:
As many as 100 commercial truck drivers paid up to $5,000 each to bribe state Department of Motor Vehicles employees for illegal California licenses, federal authorities said Tuesday.
Up to 23 traffic accidents could be related to the fraud, officials said, though there were no fatalities.
Emma Klem, a 45-year-old Salinas DMV employee, and trucking school owner Kulwinder Dosanjh Singh, 58, of Turlock, both pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit bribery and identity fraud, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said.
Two other DMV employees in Salinas and Sacramento and two other Central Valley trucking school operators have been arrested on similar charges.
Court records say the employees changed computer records to falsely show that drivers had passed written and behind-the-wheel tests after they were bribed by the owners of three truck-driving schools between June 2011 and March 2015. …
The DMV revoked or cancelled 602 commercial licenses that could be linked to the fraud, including the 100 that were pinpointed by investigators, said Frank Alvarez, the DMV’s chief investigator.
Bribery cases concentrated in San Diego County
This is only one of several recent cases. This is from a June Union-Tribune report:
SAN DIEGO — A California Highway Patrol officer is the second person to be charged in connection with a DMV bribery scandal.
Carlos Ravelo is accused of illegally transferring a temporary driver’s license to a driver, once in September 2013 and again in January 2014, according to an indictment unsealed in San Diego federal court last month.
Ravelo is a 13-year veteran officer and works at the CHP’s El Cajon station.
In March, a Westminster DMV employee was arrested and charged with two counts related to taking bribes to provide driver’s licenses.
The Los Angeles Times also notes other cases in San Diego County:
In February, a San Diego DMV official pleaded guilty to accepting bribes for setting aside license suspensions and providing unauthorized temporary licenses to drivers who had lost theirs after being arrested on DUI charges.
Last year, five employees of the DMV’s El Cajon and Rancho San Diego offices were convicted in connection with a bribery scam in which licenses were improperly provided to clients of a local driving school.
Low starting pay may be driving scandals
These are in addition to 21 FBI arrests related to bribery at the same two offices in May 2012. This is from the FBI’s press release:
United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced today that employees at the California Department of Motor Vehicles in San Diego County were charged in a criminal complaint for their involvement in a long-running bribery conspiracy that resulted in the production of hundreds of fraudulent driver licenses for applicants who had failed — or not taken — the required driver license tests.
The complaint alleges that DMV officials at the El Cajon DMV office … and the Rancho San Diego DMV office … falsely entered both “passing” written and “passing” driving test scores for applicants in exchange for bribes ranging up to $3,000 per license.
In addition to the DMV employees, 16 other defendants were charged in the complaint. … According to court documents, the corruption scheme involved the fraudulent production of both Class C (regular) and Commercial Class A driver licenses. Hundreds of applicants paid recruiters approximately $400- $500 for each fraudulent Class C license … .
Considering that the starting pay of a “business service assistant” at DMV can be as low as $29,940 a year, this may be behind clerks deciding to augment their income illegally.
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Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.
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