For the first time, federal investigators have tied an Illinois CDLs-for-cash scheme to a truck driver who was involved in a 1994 crash that killed six children.
A former manager of a driver's licensing facility pleaded guilty last week to giving truck drivers passing test scores in exchange for bribes and political contributions. George Velasco entered his plea one day after prosecutors said he had given a special oral exam to Ricardo Guzman, the driver involved in the fatal crash.
Velasco was one of six people charged in April with conspiring to make sure certain applicants passed licensing tests in exchange of bribes of as much as $1,200 per license. He raised more than $25,000 in campaign funds for then-secretary-of-state George Ryan, who is now governor. Velasco worked with Marion Seibel, the other McCook manager, who has already pleaded guilty.
Velasco will cooperate with prosecutors at next months' trial of Gonzalo Mendoza, a trucking company operative who arranged to have Guzman tested. Federal prosecutors did not say outright that the trucker's license was obtained by bribes, nor has Guzman been accused of any wrongdoing. Mendoza, however, did arrange for Guzman's license.
The parents of the children killed in the crash recently settled a lawsuit against five corporations and two individuals, including Guzman, for $100 million.
Also last week, the former safety officer of a school bus company was indicted in the federal investigation. David Jans, former safety officer for American Consolidated Transportation Cos., was indicted for allegedly taking bribes to pass drivers on state road tests. It's the first indictment to involve the state's third-party CDL testing program.