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Document and Benefit Fraud
01/29/2010

4 sentenced for selling fraudulent Georgia driver's licenses

ATLANTA - Four men were sentenced Friday for conspiring to issue Georgia driver's licenses to unauthorized recipients who were willing to pay up to $7,000 per license following a joint U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Georgia Department of Driver Services investigation.

Harikrishna A. Patel, 28, of Snellville, Ga.; Shijuanna V. Cobb, 35, of Ellenwood, Ga.; Rickell M. Patterson, 32, of Conyers, Ga.; and Angela Rene Read, 40, of Chicago, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Orinda D. Evans.

According to the indictment, between Jan. 2007 and Aug. 2007, Harikrishna Patel charged up to $7,000 or more to obtain Georgia driver's licenses for illegal aliens and others who did not qualify for licenses under state law.

Cobb, Patterson and Read were driver's license examiners who worked at the Georgia Department of Driver's Services Service Center No. 67 in Lithonia, Ga.

Once Patel had customers lined up, he sent them to that customer service center, where they would receive licenses from Cobb, Patterson or Read. The examiners did not require Patel's customers to take any tests or to produce proof of legal residency in Georgia. Patel later gave the examiners a share of the fees he collected.

The conspirators caused the driver's service to issue 136 driver's licenses to people with the last name "Patel" and fictitious addresses. The driver's service cancelled those licenses after the conspiracy was discovered.

"Counterfeit identity documents like the ones produced by this ring can be used by criminals; essentially anyone who's seeking to mask their identity and hide their true intentions," said Kenneth Smith, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Atlanta. "Given the public security implications, ICE is working closely with its local and federal law enforcement counterparts here in Atlanta and around the country to target these kinds of schemes and shut them down."

Patel was sentenced to two years in prison followed by three years of supervised release, ordered to perform 40 hours of community service, and pay a fine of $6,000.

Cobb and Patterson were each sentenced to five months in prison to be followed by four months of home confinement and three years of supervised release, and ordered to perform 40 hours of community service.

Read was sentenced to six months of home confinement as part of a two year probation and also ordered to perform 40 hours of community service.

Patel, Cobb, Patterson and Read pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to produce and distribute false identification documents.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William G. Traynor prosecuted the case.