FBI agents yesterday raided the Georgetown branch of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, arresting five persons, including one employee thought to be involved with selling illegal driver's licenses.
Agents raided the branch, at 3222 M St. NW, at about 1 p.m. after a monthslong investigation into the sale of fake licenses, some of which were sold to "noncitizens," city officials said.
"Everything that we do has a black market," DMV Director Lucinda M. Babers said at an afternoon press conference at the DMV branch inside the Georgetown Park shopping mall. "There are people that are perhaps approaching our employees on a daily basis to see if they can entice them."
FBI spokeswoman Deborah Weierman said agents arrested one DMV employee and four others in connection with the scam.
All five persons will be arraigned today in U.S. District Court on charges of document fraud, Miss Weierman said. No specific charges had been established last night.
Miss Babers said officials don't know how many fake licenses were sold, but they think the scam was in operation for roughly a year.
She said the investigation began about eight months ago after a referral to the D.C. inspector general's office by the DMV's service integrity officer, Gabriel Robinson, who is responsible for monitoring operations and detecting fraud.
Mr. Robinson said he noticed irregularities in the employee's paperwork during the course of an unrelated investigation for another jurisdiction.
Miss Babers said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Social Security Administration were among the agencies that participated in the raid.
Officials with ICE and with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District referred inquiries to the FBI.
D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty applauded Mr. Robinson's work, saying the arrests indicated that safeguards in place as a result of past abuses at the DMV are effective.
"This is exactly the type of work that you would expect from any D.C. employee, but certainly one who is in service integrity," Mr. Fenty said.
In August 2004, authorities charged three persons at the Georgetown branch in connection with a driver's license fraud scheme.
Lisa B. Johnson, a D.C. treasury clerk working at the DMV office, and Craig Calvin Hughes and Gregory Murray were charged after they collected $3,200 from undercover agents in exchange for a fake driver's license.
Johnson, the only DMV employee among the group, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison. Murray received 10 months in jail, and Hughes was sentenced to five months in jail.
In May 2003, two persons were arrested in a fraud scheme operated out of the now-closed K Street DMV branch in Northwest. Investigators estimated that scam cost the District between $200,000 and $400,000 in lost revenues.
Sherry J. McKnight pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from customers, whom she steered to DMV worker Tonette R. Cooks, who erased their parking fines and traffic violations from the agency's computer system.
Cooks was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and McKnight was sentenced to 46 months in prison. Each was ordered to pay $200,000 restitution.
Miss Babers said the Georgetown branch, which was closed yesterday after the raid, will be open today.