32 at Mvd Charged in Fake Id Case 2004
In one of the largest public corruption cases in state history, MVD employees have for years been accepting bribes of up to $3,500 for unlawfully providing state identification cards and driver’s licenses, according to indictments released Thursday. Among those indicted are 26 current and former employees of 10 MVD offices in Southern Arizona and the Phoenix area and eight others suspected of brokering the sale of fake state issued ID cards. The 94 pages of indictments also contain several charges of conspiracy. All but two Phoenix area suspects were arrested Thursday. “These fraudulent documents would permit individuals to travel from Arizona to Washington nonstop. They could be used to open a fraudulent bank account. attorney in Tucson. MVD employees accepted bribes for issuing fraudulent driver’s licenses, identification cards, commercial driver’s licenses, hazardous material
certification and even a Social Security card in one Phoenix case, Mignone said. The fraud was the work of several pockets of illegal activity rather than a single organization. Of those arrested, 11 are current or former MVD employees in Tucson, two are former employees in Sierra Vista, two are current MVD employees in Douglas and one worked in Nogales. The investigation started in December 2001 when an undercover Tucson police officer working for a counter narcotics task force received a tip that MVD employees were selling the IDs, scannable fake ids said Kathleen Robinson, assistant chief of the Tucson Police Department. Undercover narcotics officers continued to investigate and verified the fraudulent documents were being sold when they purchased some, Robinson said, at which point the investigation was turned over to the FBI and expanded to the Phoenix area. Guerin said those IDs were the “real McCoy” and would be nearly impossible for anyone to tell they had been fraudulently issued. The maximum penalty for each count of unlawfully producing identification documents is 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine “To my knowledge, this is probably the largest public corruption case in the history of our state,” said Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. “They have sold national security in a traitorous and despicable fashion.” The indictments were announced at press conferences in Tucson and Phoenix. Nathan Gray, FBI assistant special agent in charge, said law enforcement officials will attempt to get as many names as possible from the suspects. “It is going to be near impossible to know exactly all the people,” Gray said. Charlton warned MVD employees involved with the scandal or who have knowledge of it to contact law enforcement.
Law enforcement officials did not want to blow the investigation by arresting one or two suspects at a time. Thomas Clinkenbeard, chief investigator for the MVD’s Office of Special Investigation, filltrustid said the agency is going to try to get some of the licenses back. “It’s a huge concern but there are accommodations that have to be made. You don’t want to compromise the investigation,” Clinkenbeard said. The workers are now on paid administrative leave pending further action, Department of Transportation Director Victor Mendez said. Mendez did not know how long that would last. House Majority Whip Randy Graf, R Green Valley, said the investigation could lead to more support for Proposition 200, which looks to cut down on fraud in the state’s welfare programs and restrict services available to illegal residents. A driver’s license is proof of legal residency in the state. “It will certainly highlight the issue that there is fraud activity going on out there,” said Graf. Saji Vettiyil, an attorney for Tucson defendant Deborah Salcido, said she as well as other MVD employees deny any involvement in the cases. The investigation echoed a similar case in 2000 in which undercover officers exposed three separate rings selling fake licenses and ID cards out of several Maricopa County MVD offices. A dozen people were arrested, including four state employees, on charges of selling the fake licenses and ID cards for up to $1, buy fake ids 500 each.