NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee man was charged in a federal complaint Thursday with accepting bribes in relation to his employment as a Tennessee driver's license examiner. The federal bribery charges follow a five-month, joint investigation undertaken by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI and the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
Larry Murphy, 54, of Antioch, Tenn., is a supervisory driver's license examiner employed at a licensing facility on Hart Lane in Nashville. Murphy is accused of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes to issue Tennessee driver licenses to applicants who either failed or did not take the written tests required.
"Fraudulent identification documents can be utilized in the full spectrum of criminal activity — everything from illegal employment to plotting acts of terrorism," said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans. "The successful outcome of this collaborative effort reflects another example of HSI's commitment to work alongside our law enforcement partners to investigate this type of crime to the fullest extent to ensure the safety and security of our nation." Parmer oversees HSI activities in a five-state area which includes Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.
"These allegations pose two serious problems facing our nation — public corruption and public safety," said U.S. Attorney Jerry E. Martin. "Both issues are high priorities of the Department of Justice and we will continue to dedicate the necessary resources to root out corruption and punish those who would jeopardize the safety of our citizens. Our partners at the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security are vigilant in enacting and enforcing regulations designed to protect the motoring public on our streets and highways and equally vigilant when it comes to dealing with those who would seek to circumvent its processes."
"Corruption by public officials undermines the public trust and can threaten the overall safety of our community," said Aaron T. Ford, special agent in charge of the FBI's Memphis Division. "Public corruption is the number one criminal priority of the FBI and we will continue to work with our partners to bring to justice those who would seek to line their own pockets and in doing so, jeopardize the safety of the public."
"The state's driver service center employees are on the front lines of homeland security," Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. "We must not let Tennessee driver's licenses be issued to individuals who are not entitled to them. When we became aware of possible criminal activity involving this individual, we launched an immediate investigation and turned the case over to federal officials. Any action that places driver's licenses in the hands of the wrong people will not be tolerated by this department."
According to the criminal complaint, between January and April 17, 2012, Murphy improperly provided several drivers' licenses to four undercover operatives in exchange for payment, including issuance of commercial driver's licenses, which are required to legally operate large vehicles such as tractor trailers. In one instance, the complaint alleges that Murphy simply fabricated a social security number on one such application when the undercover operative told him that he did not have a social security number. Murphy also manufactured a false medical certification for the commercial license application, which is required to demonstrate that an applicant is physically capable of operating a large vehicle.
If convicted, Murphy faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Charges brought by a criminal complaint are merely accusations. All defendants have the right to a trial, at which the government must bear the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.