Virginia Yanks Illegal Drivers Licenses

May 13, 2004

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has yanked the licenses of 1,016 drivers who failed to verify they obtained their licenses legally from two clerks convicted in a license-selling scam.

In December, the DMV sent letters to 2,837 drivers who had purportedly used out-of-state licenses to get new Virginia licenses from the two clerks at the Tysons Corner branch. Earlier last year, the clerks were convicted of selling licenses to drivers who could not obtain them legitimately.

The drivers were told they must prove they got their licenses legally. DMV said it was able to verify that 1,821 of those drivers had held a valid license in another state. The rest either did not respond or provided information that could not be verified.

“We have a responsibility to make sure the person we’re issuing a driver’s license to is who they say they are, lives where they say they live and has met the requirements to indicate they are a safe driver,” DMV spokeswoman Pam Goheen said.

The DMV has no plans to penalize the violators beyond canceling the licenses.

Federal prosecutors estimated that the two clerks helped 1,000 motorists illegally obtain licenses by falsifying applications to appear as if some customers had turned in valid out-of-state licenses, reducing paperwork needed for a new license.

The scheme involved selling more than 1,000 licenses for $800 to $1,600 each. Some of those who purchased the illegal licenses had immigration problems or criminal records.

Consuelo Onate-Banzon, 46, of Lorton, and Rony Razon, 31, of Vienna, pleaded guilty to document fraud. Onate-Banzon was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and had to forfeit $200,000 in illegal earnings. Razon was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and had to forfeit $100,000.

The DMV in 2001 closed loopholes that allowed seven of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers to get licenses and identification in Virginia. Before that, a motorist could show only an affidavit signed by a friend attesting to their identity to get a driver’s license or other identification.

A law that took effect Jan. 1 further tightened the requirements for obtaining a license. The law requires drivers to provide one of several government-issued documents that prove they are either U.S. citizens or are here legally before they can obtain a license.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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