Immigrants and community leaders protest the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) policies that deny driver's licenses and state ID's to hundreds of thousands of immigrant New Yorkers April 13, 2004 in front of the DMV on 34th Street in New York City. The protest came in the wake of a sweeping DMV crackdown on individuals without Social Security numbers.
Two Department Motor Vehicle employees were arrested Tuesday on charges of selling official driver's licenses with other people's names to customers which included convicted sex offenders, a drunk driver and even someone who said they were on the no-fly list.
Officials say the scheme brought in more than a $1 million for the DMV employees.
Prosecutors said criminals were paying up to $10,000 for new licenses with a new names so they could avoid detection. Armed with these new, fake but very official IDs, sex offenders did not have to register, criminals avoided detection on background checks and convicted drunk drivers who lost their driving privileges could again get behind the wheel.
Federal, state and local law enforcement officials said the ring did not care who received the state driver's licenses and other identification documents. They say one recipient was on the television show "America's Most Wanted."
In one case, an undercover agent posed as a terrorist hoping to get around a no-fly list and was able to buy a license from the ring, officials said.
Wilch "License Man" Dewalt is charged with running the fraud ring. DMV workers Robin Jones-Woodson and Glenda Hinton were also arrested. They worked at the Harlem and Yonkers DMV offices.
US attorney Preet Bharara said the ring stole real identities of people who did not have New York licenses. The DMV workers allegedly helped made sure there was no duplication which could cause a red flag in the department's computer system.
In all, they say, 22 people are charged, including 15 alleged customers of the ring.
"The integrity of any security system, no matter how elaborate or expensive, is only as good as the integrity of the people who carry it out," Bharara said.
NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly warned the licenses could be used by con artists or terrorists to beat the system.
John Morton, Assistant Secretary of Immigration and Customs said the security concerns in this case far more serious than a case of teens getting fake id's so they can try to buy beer. Armed with a real license, criminals from overseas could use the document to try to get a US Passport, Morton warned. He said the DMV workers "betrayed the public trust" and could have harmed national security by trying to help buyers get around the no-fly list.
In all, more than 200 licenses were sold from 2006 through 2009. Victims who think their identity was used are encouraged to visit the Federal Trade Commission web site and contact appropriate credit bureaus.