By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Attempting to obtain commercial drivers licenses, 11 individuals, including seven Brooklyn residents, were charged in Brooklyn Federal Court with conspiracy to commit mail fraud as part of an extensive scheme to enable applicants for New York State commercial drivers licenses to cheat on required tests.
New York requires drivers of commercial vehicles, such as transport buses and large semi-trailer trucks, to obtain a commercial drivers license (CDL) issued by the state and regulated by the United States Department of Transportation. In order to obtain a CDL, an applicant must pass a series of tests—including written and audio examinations, both requiring applicants to fill out a paper answer sheet—often taken under the supervision of Department of Motor Vehicles security officers.
It is alleged that in exchange for cash, DMV security guards signaled to applicants the appropriate time to leave the DMV testing location, blank tests in hand. The applicants would then meet with the defendants who completed the CDL tests on the applicants’ behalf. The applicants would then return to the DMV testing site and submit the completed exam for grading.
Another cheating scheme, according to the charging papers, was the alleged use of a coded pencil that contained a series of dots and dashes inscribed on the sides of the pencil. These symbols reflected the correct true or false answers to the audio version of the CDL exam.
“As alleged in the complaint, with their wide-spread cheating scheme the defendants enabled unqualified drivers to take to our roads and highways behind the wheel of large buses and heavy trucks,” said United States Attorney General for the Eastern District Loretta Lynch. “In doing so, they jeopardized the safety of other drivers, their passengers and even pedestrians.”
Investigators contend that the defendants charged each applicant anywhere between $1,500 to $2,500 for assistance in cheating on the CDL exam and that between April 2013 and September 2013, the defendants enabled over 60 people to fraudulently obtain or attempt to obtain CDLs.
“Truck drivers – many of whom are charged with transporting hazardous chemicals– are trained to drive several tons of cargo often through busy streets and highways. Bus drivers take our children to school every day,” said New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott. “These are among the serious responsibilities of anyone who acquires a commercial drivers license… and we will take all steps to ensure that everyone who has gamed the system will be off the road.”
If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and may be fined up to $250,000.