TRENTON, NJ-- Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a former New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) clerk, Rodman Lora, 39, of Ridgewood, N.Y. was indicted today along with nine alleged co-conspirators in a scheme in which the clerk allegedly accepted thousands of dollars in payments in return for allowing more than 220 individuals to obtain permits and licenses without passing required exams.
Carlos Vicuna, 36, of Elizabeth allegedly participated in the scheme with Lora, a former clerk at the Lodi MVC Agency. Vicuna is charged with second-degree conspiracy, second-degree computer criminal activity, and third-degree tampering with public records or information.
Vicuna acted as one of three “runners” whom Lora allegedly used to recruit customers who had their MVC driver records altered. More than 220 individuals between 2014 and 2016, had their records altered enabling the individuals to obtain various permits and licenses without having passed the mandatory written and/or driving exams. In return, Lora allegedly received cash payments that averaged more than $700 per license or permit.
The official misconduct and pattern of official misconduct charges against Lora carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum period of five years of parole ineligibility. The nine co-defendants indicted with Lora include Vicuna, four customers of the illegal scheme, and two co-conspirators who worked at the Lodi MVC Agency, one as an MVC clerk and the second as a security guard for a private security firm contracted by the MVC.
“Corrupt motor vehicle clerks have the power to undermine public safety by issuing fraudulent documents to criminals seeking false identification, or as alleged here, by issuing driver’s credentials to unqualified individuals,” Porrino said. “Lora sold out the trust placed in him as a motor vehicle clerk and now faces serious criminal charges, thanks to the vigilance of the MVC and the work of our detectives and attorneys.”
“This indictment sends a strong warning to those who participate in the illegal brokering and sale of driver’s licenses,” Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice said. “We’ll continue to work with the MVC to root out dishonest clerks and aggressively prosecute anyone involved in this type of criminal scheme.”
“The MVC does not tolerate any type of criminal activity whatsoever, either from customers or employees,” MVC Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez said. “Working together with our partners in law enforcement, we continue to make great strides in weeding out fraud and abuse while enhancing security throughout our entire organization.”
The Motor Vehicle Commission uncovered the alleged scheme involving Vicuna and referred the case to the Division of Criminal Justice after an initial internal investigation and audit. Porrino thanked the Motor Vehicle Commission’s Division of Security, Investigations & Internal Audit for its referral and valuable assistance. He also thanked the following agencies that assisted in the investigation: New Jersey Department of Education, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, New Jersey Department of Treasury-Division of Payroll, Lodi Police Department, Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $15,000. The charges of official misconduct and pattern of official misconduct carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without the possibility of parole upon conviction.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Bergen County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court for arraignment on the charges at a later date.
Porrino and Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has a toll-free tip line 866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The public can also log on to the Division of Criminal Justice webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.