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Document and Benefit Fraud

Outreach Campaign receives Bright Ideas award

HSI initiates wide-sweeping proactive measures to prevent and deter DMV corruption

ICE receives Bright Ideas award
ICE receives Bright Ideas award

On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 hijackers used 364 aliases to obtain 26 state-issued DMV identification documents, many through fraudulent means. That day resulted in one of the most horrendous terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and continually serves as a reminder why U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is committed to stopping document and identity fraud.

Recently, ICE's Office of Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI) outreach campaign "Do the Right Thing - Stop Document and Identity Fraud" was recognized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University with a Bright Ideas Award. The award highlights exemplary models of government innovation and advances efforts to address the nation's most pressing public concerns like document and benefit fraud.

HSI's Identity and Benefit Fraud Unit (IBFU), which identifies, disrupts and dismantles document fraud operations, initiated the outreach campaign to raise awareness about corruption at department of motor vehicles (DMV) facilities. The primary goal was to educate DMV employees, law enforcement and the public about the seriousness of fraud schemes.

"Education and outreach are proactive steps HSI has taken to deter document and benefit fraud from happening. The initiative encourages people to report crime and promotes strong partnerships to ensure that investigations are comprehensive and more efficient," said HSI Executive Associate Director James Dinkins. "The IBFU is honored to be one of the first recipients to receive a Bright Ideas Award in recognition of the DMV outreach campaign."

The campaign encompassed several techniques to fight DMV corruption:

  • New Partnerships. The campaign hinged on the daunting task of establishing partnerships with DMVs across the nation. Rather than coordinating efforts with individual DMVs, the IBFU tapped the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), which represents state and provincial members in the U.S. and Canada who administer and enforce motor vehicle laws. In December 2009, ICE became the first U.S. federal law enforcement member of the AAMVA Internal Fraud Working Group.
  • Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces. IBFU, through its HSI-led Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces, developed and strengthened existing relationships between ICE and DMV representatives.
  • Specialized Training. ; A DMV fraud corruption class was added to ICE's Identity and Benefit Fraud Advanced Training Course as a method for agents to share best practices.
  • Multimedia Materials. HSI disseminated educational and informative materials, including: a "Do the Right Thing - Stop Document and Identity Fraud" poster; a brochure that highlights HSI's role as the leader in the detection and prevention of identity fraud; and a video featuring former DMV employees speaking about their illegal activities at the DMV, which DMVs can use during employee ethics training. The IBFU has sent approximately 215,000 brochures, 3,800 posters and 900 DVDs to participating DMVs across the nation that have pledged to use the materials in their employee training.

HSI has been at the forefront of numerous DMV employee corruption investigations where employees use their positions for financial gain. The investigations have resulted in the arrest, indictment and successful prosecution of DMV employees and members of criminal organizations.

The Baltimore Field Office led several of these investigations, including an undercover operation at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). Investigators discovered that criminals involved in narcotics smuggling, firearms distribution and murder obtained fraudulent commercial driver's licenses at the MVA, which expanded the scope of the investigation into a large-scale drug smuggling operation along the Eastern Seaboard.

Driver's licenses can be used as proof of identity when completing employment eligibility forms, boarding an aircraft, opening a bank account and demonstrating residency. The DMV outreach campaign has proven to be a highly effective tool in fighting document and identity fraud-a crime that jeopardizes national security and threatens public safety.