BROOKLYN, N.Y. — A complaint was unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn charging 11 individuals with conspiracy to commit mail fraud as part of an extensive scheme to enable applicants for New York state commercial driver's licenses to cheat on required tests.
The charges are the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT-OIG) and the New York State Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.
As set forth in the complaint, drivers of certain commercial vehicles, such as large buses and heavy transportation trucks, must possess a New York state commercial driver's license (CDL), which is issued by the DMV pursuant to the regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Before obtaining a CDL, all applicants must pass tests covering various subjects related to safely driving large vehicles. The DMV offers CDL exams in a written format containing multiple choice questions, or an audio format comprised of true or false questions. Both versions require applicants to fill out a paper answer sheet.
Defendants allegedly provided applicants with 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. Defendants, employed as DMV security guards, also allegedly enabled applicants to cheat on written CDL tests at various DMV offices in Queens, Long Island and Manhattan. They surreptitiously signaled applicants to leave the DMV offices with their uncompleted tests in hand. Other defendants then met the applicants outside the DMV offices and arranged for another defendant to complete the exams. Applicants then re-entered the DMV with the completed exams and submitted them for grading. The security guards received cash bribes for their role in the scheme.
As alleged in the complaint, the defendants charged each applicant approximately $1,500 to $2,500 for assistance in cheating on the CDL exam. Between April 2013 and September 2013, the defendants enabled more than 60 people to fraudulently obtain or attempt to obtain CDLs.
"Today's arrests demonstrate the office's commitment to aggressively prosecute and investigate those who compromise the public safety on our roads," stated U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch. "As alleged in the complaint, with their widespread cheating scheme the defendants enabled unqualified drivers to take to our roads and highways behind the wheel of large buses and heavy trucks. In doing so, they jeopardized the safety of other drivers, their passengers and even pedestrians. Together with our law enforcement partners, we will seek to punish those individuals who endanger the public by committing such crimes."
Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the New York State Attorney General's Office; the New York City Police Department, Internal Affairs Bureau; the New York County District Attorney's Office; and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles for their cooperation and assistance in the investigation.
"The alleged fraudulent scheme of issuing commercial driver's licenses' to unworthy drivers puts all of us at risk," said HSI New York Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes. "These arrests today make our roads safer but also show the great lengths that people will go to circumvent the process of obtaining a commercial driver's license by breaking the law."
"This investigation demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that U.S. DOT's CDL regulations fulfill their purpose of advancing safety on the roads by requiring that only qualified individuals obtain CDLs," stated U.S. DOT-OIG Regional Special Agent in Charge Douglas Shoemaker. "Working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial colleagues, we will continue our vigorous efforts to prevent, detect and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law fraud schemes which adversely affect the public trust throughout New York and elsewhere."
New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott said, "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. These are among the serious responsibilities of anyone who acquires a commercial driver's license. Our investigation uncovered numerous people who paid others thousands of dollars for answers to a test they could not answer without cheating, a scheme which undermined the system designed to ensure the security of our roads and communities. I am very pleased to report today that my office along with our federal partners, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the District Attorney's Office have shut down this operation, and we will take all steps to ensure that everyone who has gamed the system will be off the road."
The charges contained in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of twenty years' imprisonment. Additionally, if convicted, the defendants may be fined up to $250,000.
The defendants are:
- Akmal Narzikulov, 28, of Brooklyn,
- Firdavs Mamadaliev, 22, of Brooklyn,
- Dale Harper, 48, of Bronx,
- Joachim Pierre Louis, 32, of Brooklyn,
- Latoya Bourne, 32, of Brooklyn,
- Marie Daniel, 47, of Queens Village,
- Luc Desmangles, 27, of Brooklyn,
- Beayeah Karmara, 25, of Staten Island,
- Jose Payano, 44, of Brooklyn,
- Tanael Daniel, 36, of Brooklyn, and
- Inocente Rene Gonzalez-Martinez, 57, of Bronx.