On October 19, prosecutors charged two California DMV clerks for their part in a widespread CDL fraud scheme. In exchange for bribes, the clerks altered computer records to provide licenses to people who hadn’t passed – and in some cases hadn’t even taken – the CDL (commercial driver’s license) exam.
CDL fraud puts everyone in danger. But there’s money to be made hauling goods, as well as strict requirements for commercial licenses. So as long as there are dishonest students, instructors, and DMV officials willing to cheat the system, the problem won’t disappear.
California, We Have A Problem
In the October 19 case, federal agents posed as students. They met with the owners of two California truck-driving schools and agreed to pay for CDLs without passing the required tests. The driving-school owners then paid the DMV clerks to enter passing scores into agency computers.
The alleged conspiracy lasted from 2014 through April of this year. According to court documents, the co-conspirators received at least $18,600 for their part in the fraud.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time this problem has made the news.
In 2015, federal authorities caught three DMV employees and three trucking school owners taking bribes for CDLs. The DMV revoked or canceled 602 commercial licenses linked to the fraud, which stretched back to 2011. Officials said that up to 23 accidents were possibly related to the bogus licenses. Thankfully, there were no fatalities.
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CDL Fraud Unseats A Governor
In 1999, a politically-charged CDLs-for-cash scandal hit Illinois.
A driving school instructor “admitted that she administered road tests, and subsequently passed approximately three students a day” for which she received bribes, according to an affidavit.
These incidents had implications beyond one driving school, though.
Federal prosecutors said that about $130,000 in bribe money passed not to just one, but two driving school instructors, both of whom were state employees. This money ended up in the campaign coffers of then-governor George Ryan. The bribery incidents eventually led to Ryan receiving a sentence of six and a half years for corruption.
The Illinois CDLs-for-cash conspiracy resulted in the deaths of innocent people. One of the truck drivers who paid a bribe for his commercial license killed six children in a crash.
And in 1993, authorities charged a Maryland truck driver in a traffic accident that killed one woman and seriously injured her son. Authorities had revoked the truck driver’s license in 1989 after a series of drunk-driving incidents. Unfortunately, he was able to use a fake license to obtain his CDL.
It’s impossible to know how many truck drivers are currently driving with a fraudulent CDL. Law enforcement agents continue to investigate bribery claims and arrest the perpetrators. But bad actors still manage to slip through the cracks, sometimes with tragic consequences.
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