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Driver In Fatal Accident May Have Had Bogus CDL

September 29, 1999

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It appears that the truck driver involved in an accident that killed six children received his CDL as part of a huge license-for-bribes operation in the Chicago area.

Gonzalo Mendoza arranged a passing grade for Ricardo Guzman, according to a plea agreement Mendoza signed Monday. Mendoza said he paid bribes to fix more than 80 license tests, money that went to buy political fund-raising tickets by employees of then-secretary of state George Ryan, who is now governor of Illinois.
Six children were killed in Milwaukee in 1994 when a mudflap-taillight assembly fell off Guzman's truck and tore open the floor of the van. Although Guzman has not been charged in the accident, he was one of five defendants who last month agreed to pay a total of $100 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the parents of the children.
Mendoza conspired with two former employees of the testing facility at McCook, George Velasco and Marion Seibel, who have both pleaded guilty to similar charges.
"Velasco would arrange for the passage of these CDL applicants on both the written and road CDL tests in exchange for bribe payments, namely Mendoza's purchase of political fund-raising tickets," said the plea agreement. Many of the applicants Mendoza sent to the license center apparently could not speak English.

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So far, federal prosecutors have charged 15 people in the Operation Safe Road investigation of the license-selling scandal. Thirteen have pleaded guilty, and charges against two are pending. Mendoza, who will be sentenced in late January, can expect a jail term of 21 to 27 months for his role.

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