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Authorities say the licenses were sold to unauthorized persons for thousands of dollars out of the East Orange, Edison, Jersey City, Lodi and North Bergen motor vehicle offices.
“The licenses that were involved here were sold for as much as $7,000 a piece to customers, typically foreign nationals who did not have the six points of identification that are now required here in New Jersey,” said New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow.
Each case involved brokers who would spread the word that, for several thousand dollars, they would arrange for customers to get digital driver’s licenses or have ones renewed without the required six points of identification.
The broker or another intermediary would typically fill out the license application or renewal application form for the customer, and simply have the customer sign it. The broker would usually accompany the customer to the motor vehicle agency office and steer them to a clerk who was in on the scheme.
The clerk would issue the license and falsely note in official records that the customer had provided sufficient identification documents and secondary documents to satisfy the verification requirement.
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“For issuing the licenses, we allege that the corrupt clerks in this case received a cut of the money,” said Dow.
Dow said the black licenses goes beyond just driving a car.
“A driver’s license for example can be used to cash checks, open a credit card account and we all know, boarding a plane,” she said.
Those charged include six former Motor Vehicle Commission clerks, 21 customers and 13 intermediaries that would drum up business for the ring.
All 40 defendants are charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and computer criminal activity, and tampering with public records or information. Many were also charged with bribery, and most of the clerks, brokers and other intermediaries face multiple counts of each charge. The most serious charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and the clerks would face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years without parole if convicted.
The former clerks charged are: Anne Marie Manfredonia, 43, of Little Ferry, who worked at the Lodi office; Laquanda Murray, 28, of Newark, and Rashaan A. Smith, 31, of Irvington, both of who worked at the East Orange office; Sonia Noel, 48, of Union City, and her daughter, Melody Noel, 26, also of Union City, who worked in the Jersey City office; and Cristian J. Toledo, 33, of North Bergen, who worked in the North Bergen office.
The clerks have all been fired.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission will soon use facial recognition technology to scrub the system’s seven million digital images.
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)