the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Lodi NJ, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a former New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission clerk was sentenced to prison today for operating a scheme in which he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in payments in return for allowing over 200 people to obtain permits and licenses without passing required exams.
Rodman Lora, 39, of Ridgewood, N.Y., a former clerk at the Lodi MVC Agency, was sentenced today to seven years in state prison, including two years and four months of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge James J. Guida in Bergen County. He pleaded guilty on April 16 to charges of conspiracy (2nd degree), computer criminal activity (2nd degree), and tampering with public records (3rd degree). He forfeited his state pension and is permanently barred from public employment. Deputy Attorney General Christopher J. Keating prosecuted the defendants and handled the sentencing hearings for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau.
Lora was charged in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation revealed that Lora altered MVC driver records for over 200 people between 2014 and 2016, enabling them to obtain various permits and licenses without having passed the mandatory written and/or driving exams, including commercial driver’s licenses with school bus and HazMat endorsements. In return, he received cash payments averaging over $700 per license or permit.
The following three men previously pleaded guilty to third-degree tampering with public records in connection with the scheme. They also were sentenced today by Judge Guida.
Luis Tiburcio, 46, of Passaic, N.J., was paid to act as a “runner” for Lora and bring him customers in the illegal scheme. He was sentenced to three years in state prison.
Masood Ahmadi, 55, of Lake Hiawatha, N.J., is the owner of Ideal Transportation, a school bus company operating in northern New Jersey. He sent people seeking commercial driver’s licenses to Lora to obtain licenses through the scheme, including relatives and persons seeking employment with his company. He was sentenced to a term of three years of probation.
Mark Hingston, 55, of Toms River, N.J., a private security guard at the Lodi MVC agency, obtained a commercial driver’s license with an endorsement, after Lora entered passing written exam scores for him. He received two years of probation and 100 hours of community service.
“The illegal brokering and sale of driver’s licenses compromises public safety and security on multiple levels, by allowing unqualified drivers to share our roadways and by enabling criminals to steal identities and use false identities to commit crimes,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The MVC has enhanced its technology and programs to prevent this type of fraud, and we will continue to collaborate with them to investigate and aggressively prosecute those responsible.”
“We left no stone unturned in our investigation, charging a total of 70 people, including many defendants who illegally obtained licenses through this scheme,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “The prison sentences ordered for this former MVC clerk and one of his runners send a strong deterrent message that document fraud of this kind is a serious crime that will be met with serious penalties.”
“I’m so proud of our staff for uncovering these bad apples and helping to root them out of a great organization full of hard-working, honest people dedicated to serving millions of New Jerseyans on a daily basis,’’ said MVC Chair and Chief Administrator Sue Fulton. “The MVC does not tolerate any type of criminal activity whatsoever, either from employees or customers. This case is a prime example of our efforts to weed out fraud and abuse and enhance security throughout the entire organization. We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to ensure the quality and integrity of our motor vehicle services, and the safety of New Jersey drivers.”
Nine defendants were indicted with Lora, including the three men sentenced with him today and six others. Two pleaded guilty previously to tampering with public records and face sentences of probation: Carlos Vicuna, 37, of Elizabeth, N.J., was a “runner” for the scheme, and Jose Lora, 45, of Newark, N.J., Lora’s brother, received a commercial driver’s license without passing the written exam. Four defendants were admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention Program.
Beyond the indictment charging those 10 defendants, the investigation led to charges against 60 other customers and runners, bringing the total defendants to 70. Seven of those 60 pleaded guilty to tampering with public records and face probation, and 52 were admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention Program.
The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau by Detective Cecil Boone, Sgt. Kelly Howard, Detective Jessica Marcacci and Analyst Terri Drumm, under the supervision of Sgt. Andrea Salvatini, Lt. Bill Newsome, Acting Bureau Chief Andrew Johns, Deputy Bureau Chief Jacqueline Smith, and Division of Criminal Justice Deputy Director Jill Mayer.
The Motor Vehicle Commission uncovered the alleged scheme involving Lora and referred the case to the Division of Criminal Justice after an initial internal investigation and audit. Attorney General Grewal thanked the Motor Vehicle Commission’s Division of Security, Investigations & Internal Audit for its referral and valuable assistance. He also thanked the following agencies that assisted in the investigation: Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, New Jersey Department of Education, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, New Jersey Department of Treasury-Division of Payroll, Lodi Police Department, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
This case came to light through the efforts of NJ MVC Investigator 2 Johannes Segboer of the Security & Investigations Unit (SIU), under the direction of SIU Supervising Investigator Richard Stryker and SIU Chief of Investigations James Clifford. NJ MVC Information Technology (IT) personnel were also brought into the mix by SIU Supervising Investigator Gary Nucera, who realized the need for specific database searches to be designed and conducted in order to identify the full extent of the fraudulent activities perpetrated by Rodman Lora: IT Director Joseph Csolak, Administrative Analyst 4 Philip Fink, Administrative Analyst 3 Alyssa Rosenlicht and Administrative Analyst 3 Carol Sokolowski. Their assistance was of great value throughout. Even after the matter was referred to the NJ DCJ, Investigator Segboer and the NJ MVC IT Team continued to support DCJ in their investigation.