There's a reason everyone at the DMV treats you like shit: You're not paying them $7,000! For that nominal sum, customers at the Yonkers, N.Y., DMV—even Pakistanis on the no-fly list—could get licenses based on stolen identities.
Prosecutors in New York unsealed a complaint yesterday accusing the awesomely named Wilch Dewalt—who goes by a number of aliases, including Sharrieff Sabazz Muhammad—of running a $1 million identity theft ring out of the Yonkers DMV. With the help of DMV staffers on his payroll, Dewalt secured real driver licenses in unsuspecting victims' names for convicted pedophiles, drug dealers, and an undercover agent posing as a Pakistani man suspected of terrorist ties.
According to the complaint (the good parts of which you can read here), Dewalt would assemble "packages" of fraudulent documents based on stolen identities—including birth certificates, W-2 forms, and Social Security cards—and then escort his customers to the DMV to apply for a license. Dewalt paid off two DMV workers to make sure ahead of time that licenses hadn't already been issued to the names he'd stolen, to process the applications, and even to fill out the written driving tests ahead of time.
Business was good: Dewalt was caught on wiretaps boasting about how close he was to cracking $1 million from selling his "packages" $7,000 at a time.
Among Dewalt's more than 200 customers were a sex offender and drug trafficker who had been featured on America's Most Wanted just three weeks before he got his fake license in Yonkers.
A team of agents from the the Department of Homeland Security's Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Bureau, NYPD, New York DMV, and other agencies tracked Dewalt beginning in October 2009, using physical surveillance, wiretaps, and confidential informants. As they were closing in last month, just for kicks, they decided to see what he'd do if someone suspected of terrorist ties wanted to buy an "enhanced license" that would let him travel between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada without a passport. He would! An undercover agent posing as a Pakistani citizen who had been deported and put on the no-fly list because the U.S. government "thinks I'm some kind of terrorist or something," and tried to buy an enhanced license and passport from Dewalt. The license? No problem. The passport? "We have to take it one step at a time." When the undercover agent repeated to Dewalt that he was on the no-fly list, just to make sure that sank in, Dewalt replied: "We done talked about that."
Dewalt was a savvy businessman. He kept his product lines clean, and decided to focus on premium high-end identity thieving rather than get tangled up in a la carte pricing. When one customer tried to purchase just a license, without the attendant documentation to make it seem legitimate, he rebuffed them: "I don't break up a package, man. I sell packages. That's what I do."
Dewalt, his girlfriend, his two DMV contacts, and three associates have been charged with five counts of conspiracy, identity theft, and bribery.
[Photo via Flickr by Michael Fajardo.]