- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

A court hearing has been set for next week for a federal transportation employee charged with running a scam to use stolen credit cards to pay off parking and moving-violation tickets in the District.

Lonnell Damon Duckett, 36, a U.S. Department of Transportation employee, and Ladonna Gray, 27, were charged last week in a purported scheme to pay off unpaid tickets for cash.

They have been released on personal recognizance and ordered to appear for a Dec. 12 hearing in federal court in the District.

According to an affidavit from an investigator with the D.C. Office of the Inspector General, the scheme involved Mr. Duckett’s offering to pay off people’s unpaid parking and moving-violation tickets.

In return, he sought cash for up to half the value of the unpaid D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles tickets, court records show.

Mr. Duckett told co-workers he had a “DMV connection” named “Donna.”

But court records show Miss Gray worked at a storage business in the District, where she had access to customers’ credit cards.

“Ladonna Gray is not employed by the D.C. DMV, she was employed by a storage company, which is how she obtained customers’ credit-card numbers and used them to pay fines online via the DMV Web site online ticket payment portal,” said DMV spokeswoman Janis Hazel, citing court and DMV records.

The investigation began after four persons who had accounts at the storage business filed complaints about phony credit-card charges, court records show.

The charges apparently were made to pay off parking tickets of motorists who paid Mr. Duckett cash to settle their DMV debts, authorities say.

Parking and red-light and speed camera tickets can be paid with a credit card over the Internet.

In one instance, authorities say Mr. Duckett’s co-worker gave him $500 in cash, then Mr. Duckett gave the co-worker a phone number of a woman whom he identified as “Donna.”

“Donna” then asked for the person’s vehicle tag number before providing the person with a receipt showing that $1,500 in fines had been paid, court records show.

Such a receipt can be obtained by any member of the public who pays his or her ticket online using a credit card.

“The online ticket payment portal is self-service accessible by anyone with an Internet connection and that we would not know who was making the payment,” Miss Hazel said.

“None of that activity … had anything to do with D.C. DMV employees,” she said.

“If someone is using an illegally obtained credit-card number, once it is discovered by the owner, they would have to report it to their credit-card company and the police.”

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