The Office of Inspection General at the U.S. Transportation Department Friday released new details in five separate legal cases against six people for crimes that include falsifying truck driver drug and alcohol test results, fraudulent commercial driver’s license testing, violating Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration out-of-service orders and lying on a truck driver application.
Fraudulent CDL Test-Taking Scheme
On Jan. 21, Inocente Gonzalez and LaToya Bourne pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with an alleged widespread fraudulent commercial driver’s license test-taking scheme in New York State.
A total of 11 individuals were indicted in October 2013, including Gonzalez and Bourne.
The investigation revealed that fraudulent CDL test-taking activities had occurred at five known state test centers in the New York City area, according to the inspector general’s office. Surveillance operations, including the use of remote observation posts and pole-cameras, identified the defendants participating in the fraud scheme, including New York State Department of Motor Vehicles security personnel, an external test-taker, facilitators, "runners" and lookouts.
Conspiring CDL applicants allegedly paid facilitators between $1,800 and $2,500 in return for CDL exam answers and escort assistance through DMV processes. Fraud schemes included the use of pencils containing miniaturized encoded test answers, the use of a Bluetooth headset as a communication device to relay CDL test answers, and the use of an external test-taker positioned nearby to take the exams, according to the inspector general’s office.
Both Gonzalez and Bourne were employed as security guards at New York State DMV locations in Manhattan, New York.
In mid-January three other people pleaded guilty for their roles in the alleged scam.
Conspiracy to Violate an FMCSA Order
One man has pleaded guilty in federal court in Macon, Georgia, to conspiracy to violate an imminent hazard out-of-service order issued by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
On Jan. 21, Lacey Lewis admitted to the charge, but there was no indication when he will be sentenced.
Lacey Lewis and others were criminally charged in May 2013 in conjunction with this scheme. In October 2008, Devasko Lewis, doing business as Lewis Trucking Company, was placed under an order to cease all operations due to serious violations discovered during a FMCSA compliance review conducted after a fatal crash in Alabama that killed seven.
Devasko Lewis, assisted by Lacey Lewis, attempted to circumvent this order by continuing to operate two other companies, Eagle Transport and Eagle Trans, according to the inspector general’s office. Devasko Lewis has yet to be tried.
This was the second time Devasko Lewis was indicted on similar charges. The first time he pleaded guilty to charges and was sentenced to 90 days in prison plus supervised release.
Owner of Tennessee Trucking Company Sentenced
On Jan. 21, Dorian Ayache, the owner and operator of livestock hauler Three Angels Farms in Lebanon, Tennessee, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Nashville to three months in prison, 12 months supervised release, a $5,000 fine and was ordered not to engage in any commercial trucking.
In August 2014, Ayache, along with Theresa Vincent, owner and operator of Terri's Farms in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to violating an imminent hazard out of service order issued by the FMCSA. Both were indicted in September 2013.
FMCSA determined in June 2012 that the operations of Three Angels Farms posed an imminent hazard to public safety and issued an order requiring Ayache to cease all commercial motor vehicle operations. The order was issued due to Ayache's unacceptable safety practices, including his failure to adequately maintain his commercial motor vehicles and his failure to ensure drivers were qualified. He was also cited for accidents that occurred in 2012 that resulted in fatal injuries to horses.
In August 2012, FMCSA issued a second order against Vincent and Terri's Farm, forcing them to cease all commercial motor vehicle operations and found that Terri's Farm was merely a continuation of Three Angels Farm. Vincent, as well as Ayache, criminally violated the previous order by continuing commercial motor carrier operations under the name and authority of Terri's Farm. Vincent was sentenced late last year.
Drug Tester Debarred for Fraud Scheme
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has barred one woman from doing business with the U.S. Transportation Department after she was recently sentenced following pleading guilty to falsely certifying trucking drug and alcohol tests results.
According to the IG's office, the move by the agency on Jan. 16 against Elizabeth Pope is for a period of three years, retroactive to Aug. 6, 2014. In addition, FMCSA issued to Pope a notice of proposed exclusion and recommended a five-year public interest exclusion from conducting business with the DOT.
In December 2014, Pope was sentenced to eight months house arrest and ordered to pay $109,000 in restitution for her conviction related to the falsification of FMCSA regulated drug and alcohol testing of commercial vehicle operators.
Pope operated Eastgate Laboratory Testing Inc., a company that conducted drug testing for trucking companies in the Pittsburgh area. Eastgate administered drug tests that included pre-employment, random, and post-accident testing.
The investigation determined that between 2008 and 2012, Pope illicitly used the computer generated signature of a doctor who had once served as Eastgate's Medical Review Officer on all required FMCSA paperwork. Pope admitted to falsifying the FMCSA regulated drug testing documents to give the impression that all tests received the necessary oversight and review.
False Statements on FMCSA Required Application
On Jan. 26, Arnold Williams pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Raleigh, North Carolina, for false statements on a commercial driver employment application. He was indicted in September of last year.
The investigation determined that in January 2013, Williams was charged by the North Charleston, South Carolina Police Department with reckless homicide and possessing an open alcohol beverage container.
The arrest followed a crash of the tractor-trailer he was operating that resulted in one fatality and three injuries. As a result of the accident, Williams was terminated from his position as a driver by his employer in February 2013.
In April 2013, Williams applied to work as a truck driver for a North Carolina based trucking company and was subsequently hired. Per FMCSA regulations, drivers are required to list all previous accidents on driver employment applications, but Williams lied on his application when he listed no previous accidents, according to the office of the inspector general.