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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fraud Scheme Exposed

DMV Employee Jailed for Peddling Drivers Licenses
Charged $500 a pop to unqualified drivers

California Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has secured jail terms for a former DMV employee and two associates for "jeopardizing the safety of thousands" by running a scam in which unlicensed drivers paid up to $500 to acquire a phony driver's license without taking a DMV driving test.

"This trio of characters allowed wannabe drivers to acquire a California driver's license without passing a single driving test," Brown said, "thereby jeopardizing the safety of thousands of Californians by putting ill-prepared drivers on our roads and highways."

Former DMV employee Rodney Wheatly, 46, of Fairfield and his two co-conspirators, Donald McGowan, 55, and Maricar Bazemore, 37, both of Vacaville, all entered no contest pleas to a single felony charge of unlawful access to a computer system (PC 502(c)).

Wheatly was sentenced to one year in Sacramento County Jail, and the other two defendants were sentenced to six months. Their prosecution was handled by Brown's office following a DMV undercover investigation. Investigators believe the trio issued about 20 fraudulent driver's licenses, but they were unable to confirm a precise number.

The investigation was initiated in late 2009 after a concerned citizen called DMV's Office of Internal Affairs to report a scheme involving the illegal sale of California driver licenses at a Napa DMV field office.

DMV investigators set up an undercover operation in which one of the agents posed as an unlicensed driver with a record of failed driving test attempts. The agent made initial contact with Bazemore over the phone and claimed to be a friend of a friend with an interest in purchasing a license. Bazemore agreed to meet the agent at a Taco Bell in Vacaville, adjacent to the senior citizens' home where she worked, and told the agent to bring $500 for the license.

At the Taco Bell, the agent and another undercover investigator posing as her boyfriend met with Bazemore and McGowan, who was introduced as the best friend of Wheatly, the DMV employee. Bazemore and McGowan instructed the undercover agents to drive to the Napa DMV field office where Wheatly would process the driver's license.

Before entering the Napa DMV field office, the agent paid McGowan $300. Inside, Bazemore instructed the agent to complete an application for a driver's license and directed her to Wheatly's window where she was told her driver's license would be mailed to her.

Upon leaving, the agent requested that Bazemore and McGowan provide her with a temporary driver's license before she paid them the remaining $200. They agreed, and the exchange was made the following week at the same Taco Bell in Vacaville.

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