the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Lodi NJ, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a former New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission clerk pleaded guilty today to 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, pleaded guilty today to charges of conspiracy (2nd degree), computer criminal activity (2nd degree), and tampering with public records (3rd degree) before Superior Court Judge James J. Guida in Bergen County. The state will recommend that Lora be sentenced to seven years in state prison, including two years and four months of parole ineligibility. He must forfeit his pension and will be permanently barred from public employment. 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 two men were indicted with Lora and pleaded guilty today before Judge Guida to tampering with public records (3rd degree):
Luis Tiburcio, 46, of Passaic, N.J., was paid to act as a “runner” for Lora and bring him customers in the illegal scheme. The state will recommend that he be 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. The state will recommend that he be sentenced to probation.
Deputy Attorney General Christopher J. Keating prosecuted the defendants and took the guilty pleas for the Division of Criminal Justice. Sentencing for the defendants is scheduled for June 15.
“When motor vehicle clerks engage in fraud involving driver’s credentials, public safety is compromised,” said Attorney General Grewal. “It is particularly alarming that school bus drivers were being licensed illegally. My office will aggressively prosecute the illegal brokering and sale of driver’s licenses.”
“We will continue to work with the MVC to protect the public by identifying and charging those who engage in this type of fraud,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Through this far-reaching investigation, we charged 70 people, including numerous customers of this illicit scheme.”
“The MVC does not tolerate any type of criminal activity whatsoever, either from customers or employees,” said Acting MVC Chair and Chief Administrator Sue Fulton. “This case is a prime example of our efforts to weed out fraud and abuse, enhancing 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 two who pleaded guilty today and seven others. Two previously pleaded guilty 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. Charges are pending against one defendant and four others 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. Eight of those 60 pleaded guilty to tampering with public records and face probation, and 52 were admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention Program.
Deputy Attorney General Christopher Keating presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. The investigation was conducted by Detective Cecil Boone, Sgt. Kelly Howard, Detective Jessica Marcacci and Analyst Terri Drumm, under the supervision of Sgt. Andrea Salvatini, Lt. Bill Newsome, Deputy 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.