TRENTON – A former clerk at the Jersey City Motor Vehicle Agency pleaded guilty today to illegally selling New Jersey digital driver’s licenses to unauthorized persons, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced.
Sonia Noel, 48, of Union City, a former clerk in the Jersey City Motor Vehicle Agency, pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy before Superior Court Judge Paul M. DePascale in Hudson County. The charge was contained in a Dec. 5, 2011, state grand jury indictment. In pleading guilty, she admitted that, on more than one occasion in 2008, she entered false information into the MVC database in connection with sales of New Jersey driver’s licenses to two people who did not have the required six points of identification.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that she be sentenced to four years in state prison. She will be required to pay $3,000 in restitution and will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. Deputy Attorney General Frank Brady took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. Noel is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 7.
“By aggressively prosecuting these crimes, we will deter others from attempting to illegally sell New Jersey digital driver’s licenses,” said Chiesa. “Because of the powerful nature of this form of identification and the propensity of criminals to seek false licenses to use in their illicit activities, we need to ensure that the security measures in place for issuing licenses are not undermined by corrupt employees who violate the public’s trust.”
“We will continue to work closely with the Motor Vehicle Commission to ensure that these types of black market license brokering schemes are detected, thoroughly investigated, and aggressively prosecuted,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor of the Division of Criminal Justice.
On May 7, Noel’s daughter, Melody Noel, 27, of Union City, who was also a clerk at the Jersey City Motor Vehicle Agency, pleaded guilty to a single count of third-degree tampering with public records or information, admitting that she assisted in processing the application for one of the driver’s licenses sold by her mother. Melody Noel was sentenced today to two years of probation, 50 hours of community service, and a $1,000 fine. She will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
Also on May 7, one of the customers who illegally purchased a license from Sonia Noel, Hernan Chica, 53, of Hackensack, pleaded guilty to third-degree computer criminal activity. Chica was sentenced today to two years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $750 fine.
A fourth defendant was indicted along with the Noels and Chica for allegedly brokering the illegal sales of licenses. The alleged broker, Peter Louveras, 33, of East Rutherford, faces pending charges including second-degree counts of conspiracy, official misconduct and bribery. The charges against him are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The defendants were among 40 defendants named in indictments unsealed on Dec. 5, 2011, which also alleged conspiracies to illegally sell driver’s licenses out of the East Orange, Edison, North Bergen and Lodi motor vehicle agencies. In some cases, the customers, who are foreign nationals, did not qualify for a license because they were in the U.S. illegally. In other cases, they lacked sufficient documentation. The customers paid $2,500 to $7,000 for a license or license renewal, and the MVC clerks and brokers split the proceeds. The indictments resulted from joint investigations by the Division of Criminal Justice MVC Unit, within the Specialized Crimes Bureau, and the Motor Vehicle Commission’s Division of Security, Investigation and Internal Audit.
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