ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York state, city and federal prosecutors have arrested 19 people accused of scheming to cheat on tests for licenses to drive school buses and operate trucks hauling hazardous materials.
State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. said Thursday that people paid anywhere from $1,400 to $4,000 to get answers to tests for commercial driver’s licenses in New York City.
In some cases, applicants would leave the testing site with the help of security guards and hand blank tests to one of the organizers of the scam or a “runner” who would take the form to someone who could fill in the correct answers, officials said. In some cases, test takers immediately received interim licenses.
In other instances, prosecutors said the applicants would be given pencils coded with a series of dots and dashes that symbolized the answers to a true or false audio test.
Scott said the alleged scheme “undermined the system designed to ensure the security of our roads and communities.”
Eight people were charged with cheating.
“The eight commercial drivers who paid someone else to take their tests took the easy way out,” Vance stated. “More than 3,500 commercial vehicles were involved in collisions in Manhattan last year, including several deadly collisions. Many of these fatal crashes are not crimes, but all of them are tragedies.”
Eleven people were hit with mail fraud conspiracy charges, including three security guards who prosecutors said received cash bribes for their role in the scheme.
“The ring leaders either provided these people with a pencil that included answers to it or they had someone on their payroll who had knowledge of the test answers and who filled out the test for the test takers,” Scott told reporters, including CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer.
Lynch said the defendants “jeopardized the safety of other drivers, their passengers and even pedestrians.”
Officials said they are most upset about the fact that the alleged cheaters were driving vehicles that require the utmost skill — buses carrying school kids or trucks that have to safely navigate city streets with dangerous cargo, Kramer reported.
The defendants are from Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Long Island.
If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and could be fined up to $250,000.
DMV officials told Kramer that in light of the alleged scam they are changing their procedures. Paper tests will be eliminated in favor tests on computers.
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