DMV Fires Workers in License Scam

100 DMV Workers May Be Fired As Statewide Probe
Thousands of Fraudulent Licenses May Have Been Issued

Saturday, August 2, 1997 · Page A15 ©1997
San Francisco Chronicle

Robert B. Gunnison, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau


The Magic Driving School, a man named Oswaldo and a gold bracelet are
at the heart of a statewide criminal investigation into the illegal sale
of thousands of drivers’ licenses, identification cards and vehicle
registrations, the Department of Motor Vehicles said yesterday. People
wanting to buying illegal DMV documents in the Los Angeles area paid as
much as $1,000 at the driving school and were instructed to meet Oswaldo
in the parking lot at the Hollywood DMV office, said department spokesman
Bill Gengler. Oswaldo then gave them gold bracelets that identified them
as his customer and instructed them to see a specific clerk inside who
would take care of them, Gengler said. The clerk has been fired, and
charges against six people have been referred to the Los Angeles County
district attorney. The statewide investigation may result in as many as
100 DMV employees being sacked and facing charges, Gengler said. Gengler
estimated that statewide as many as 25,000 documents may have been issued
fraudulently. In late May, 200 investigators were shifted from normal
duties to look into illegal document sales. Two dozen clerks have been
implicated in the most recent sweep, Gengler said. Still under way, he
said, are 76 investigations, including 11 in the Bay Area. Gengler said
most of the operations were less sophisticated than Oswaldo’s. They
usually involved one person working a parking lot who had a connection
with a clerk on the inside. “They would say, `I’ve got a friend inside
who can get you a driver’s license,’ ” he said. At the department’s 172
field offices, scrutiny of documents to prove citizenship has intensified
since enactment of a 1994 law that prohibits issuance of a license to
anyone not in the country legally. Applicants must show a valid birth
certificate, passport or document that verifies birthday and citizenship.
Previously, such papers as baptismal certificates were permitted.

Held by 20.2 million people, California drivers’ licenses are a basic
form of identification and are often the key to receiving other forms of
identification. California licenses include holograms, sophisticated
coding and layering, all designed to make it difficult to counterfeit. As
documentation to receive a license has become more stringent, and forgery
more difficult, pressure has increased for undocumented immigrants,
felons and drivers with revoked licenses to get licenses. Since January
1996, 79 DMV employees have been accused of illegal sales of documents
and three have been prosecuted in the Los Angeles area.

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