The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

December 12, 2013

Cops: Worker took bribes for driver’s licenses

PITTSBURGH — A former state driver’s license examiner has been charged with taking bribes from immigrants, mostly from the Asian country of Bhutan, who were given licenses without having to pass driving tests.

Marvin Mills, 56, of Vanderbilt, was freed after his arraignment Thursday on 16 counts of bribery and two of tampering with public records.

Mills formerly worked at the Uniontown Driver’s License Center in Fayette County. There, he tested 346 Bhutanese drivers from June 2009 until August, when the alleged scheme was detected, and failed only seven, state police said in a criminal complaint. Mills reportedly passed all 218 Bhutanese immigrants he’d tested since February 2011.

Online records don’t list an attorney for Miller, who doesn’t have a listed phone and couldn’t be reached at a family junk-hauling business in Fayette County.

PennDOT community relations coordinator Craig Yetter said officials suspected a scam, though he didn’t say why, and referred the matter to the state police.

PennDOT had the 339 drivers Mills passed retested, and about two-thirds of them failed. The failure rate for the overall population is about 50 percent, Yetter said.

“We want to make sure that everybody that’s out on the road is properly tested and can safely operate a vehicle,” Yetter said.

The charges indicate troopers watched Mills administer some of the driving tests. Mills made some of the Bhutanese applicants drive to a nearby building, where they would briefly park, and then drive back to the licensing center “with no other road skills or route taken” before they were given licenses.

According to the charges, an unnamed middleman directed some of the immigrants – who came from as far away as Erie, about 160 miles away – to be tested by Mills. Twelve of the applicants linked to the charges told police they paid the middleman $100 to $700 before the man would meet with Mills.

On other occasions, Mills allegedly dealt with the applicants directly, telling one “You give me money, I give you license,” police said. That applicant allegedly paid Mills $400 in the licensing center’s parking lot.

Bhutan is a Himalayan country between China and India in southern Asia.

Yetter confirmed that Mills no longer works as a license examiner, but could not immediately say if he was fired, resigned or when that occurred. State police believe this is an isolated case and doesn’t involve other licensing centers, spokeswoman Maria Finn said.

In the last major prosecution involving a driver’s license examiner, Robert Ferrari, of Turtle Creek, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to selling licenses to 20 Iraqi immigrants in the months leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks. The federal indictment was unsealed that month.

A Middle Eastern man who acted as a middleman was also convicted and served just 45 days in jail. That investigation was taken over by federal authorities because 18 of the fraudulently issued commercial truck licenses included a special endorsement allowing the transport of hazardous or explosive materials. At the time, federal agents were bracing for more attacks, possibly by terrorists driving commercial rigs filled with gasoline or other explosives.

Authorities determined Ferrari and the middleman were simply interested in easy money, not terrorism.

 

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