TRENTON – A new high-tech facial recognition program, “Operation Facial Scrub” used to detect individuals who obtained New Jersey driver’s licenses using false identities, has resulted in more than 600 potential criminal cases have been referred to the Attorney General, who announced a first wave of 38 criminal prosecutions today.
“A driver’s license is a powerful document that enables the holder to open financial accounts, obtain and drive motor vehicles, and board airplanes,” said Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa. “We know the 9/11 terrorists had fraudulent licenses from other states. By detecting individuals who have false licenses, law enforcement can potentially uncover other types of crime that these individuals may be involved in, including identity theft, financial fraud and even terrorism.”
Chiesa announced criminal charges against 38 people who are accused of fraudulently obtaining additional driver’s licenses in false identities. Among them were:
- Rickie Storie, 58, of Old Bridge, who allegedly used the false identities Edward J. Ford and Bruce A. Craig to obtain fraudulent commercial driver’s licenses to drive trucks, including tanker-trailers. His real and fraudulent licenses have been suspended 64 times, including six times for DUI convictions. He was indicted Feb. 11.
- Raymond Pompey, 50, of Hackensack, who allegedly obtained a license to drive a commercial bus in the name of a dead man, Edward Rivers, after his license was suspended six times for traffic infractions and failing to appear in court. He worked as a bus driver for Coach USA using the false name. He also has a felony record for identity theft, fraud and forgery. He was indicted Feb. 11.
- Anthony E. Smith, 53, of Camden, who is a registered sex offender who was sentenced to six years in prison in 1996 for exposing himself to two boys under the age of 13 in Camden County. He allegedly obtained a license to drive tanker-trucks in the name Anthony E. Raymondo after his license was permanently suspended due to five DUI convictions. Smith was arrested last year and charges are pending.
- Hiram Maldonado, 57, of Elizabeth, who allegedly used the name Victor L. Santos to obtain a license to drive a truck after his real license was suspended. He had multiple suspensions related to three DUI convictions and additional arrests when he refused to submit to a breath test. He is also wanted on an active warrant out of Florida on a charge of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a minor. He was previously arrested for a parole violation in New York, at which time he was found to be in illegal possession of numerous guns. He was indicted on Nov. 30, 2012.
The 38 defendants charged by the Attorney General’s Office include five sex offenders and 29 individuals who obtained fraudulent licenses after their real licenses had been suspended. Of the defendants with suspended licenses, 22 had been charged with DUI offenses, including 11 who had three or more DUI offenses. Eight of the cases involve the use of false identities to obtain commercial driver’s licenses to drive trucks or buses. The cases also include several defendants who owed child support or were ineligible for a New Jersey driver’s license.
“Our first 38 criminal prosecutions in Operation Facial Scrub include truck and bus drivers who have no business being on our roadways and registered sex offenders who tried to hide their criminal pasts,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to work with the Motor Vehicle Commission and our law enforcement partners to detect and aggressively prosecute criminals who obtain licenses using false identities.”
In December 2011, the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) embarked on Operation Facial Scrub, one of its most promising fraud prevention initiatives. Utilizing facial recognition technology, the MVC began a full “scrub” of its 19 million photo record database to identify any duplicative photo records that may indicate administrative errors or customer fraud.
Throughout 2012, MVC security professionals began to analyze the results of the scrub. To date, more than 600,000 matches have been reviewed and internal action taken when warranted. Of those, approximately 1,800 suspension cases were identified, which required customers to re-verify their identities with the MVC. Administrative suspensions were imposed on 146 individuals for misstatements of identification. The MVC has referred 669 potential criminal cases to the Attorney General’s Office. Information on false licenses is also shared via a secure website with 22 state and federal partners so they can pursue other cases of fraud.
In addition to scrubbing the 19 million photos in the system, the MVC is working diligently to maintain the integrity of the database through a nightly scrub of all new photos taken at its 39 agencies statewide. This ensures that attempted fraud will be identified and stopped quickly.
“Those of us in business and government who regularly handle sensitive information always talk about weeding out fraud and abuse,” said MVC Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez. “This security tool really provides us with that extra edge to thoroughly comb through our records and identify everything from simple record errors to more egregious acts of fraud.”
The charges announced today represent the first wave of prosecutions by the Attorney General’s Office as a result of Operation Facial Scrub. Of the 669 potential criminal cases referred by the MVC to the Division of Criminal Justice, 60 cases involve commercial driver’s licenses. Each case involves an individual who has obtained a license or licenses using a false name or names. These cases will be the subject of further investigations and potential prosecutions by the Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey State Police and the 21 County Prosecutors’ Offices. Local police departments may also be asked to assist in the investigations.
As results came in from the initial scrub, the MVC expanded the sharing of its valuable Operation Facial Scrub information by establishing the Aggregated Investigative Reporting Service (AIRS) in June 2012. This system, featuring users from 22 state and federal agencies, allows strategic sharing of information with partners that may be susceptible to fraudulent activity committed by the same individuals already investigated by the MVC. With real-time access to the information, the agencies can review and evaluate the identified individuals and pursue cases as well.
The MVC, the Division of Criminal Justice, and the New Jersey Office of Information Technology have implemented a secure AIRS website, which serves as a central clearinghouse for key information on potential criminal fraud suspects identified through Operation Facial Scrub. The 22 state and federal agencies participating in AIRS have access to the secure information, which has generated the following investigations to date, among others:
- 20 to 40 potential unemployment fraud cases under investigation by the New Jersey Department of Labor,
- 23 potential benefit fraud cases under investigation by the New Jersey Department of Human Services,
- 3 potential cases of Medicaid fraud under investigation by the New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller,
- 8 non-compliant Megan’s Law registrants referred to the State Parole Board for parole violations,
- 8 fraudulent Passports identified by the U.S. Department of State – Diplomatic Security Service,
- 5 criminal arrests by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and
- 4 criminal fraud suspects identified by the U.S. Social Security Administration in connection with over $200,000 in suspected fraud.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.