driving down the highway. A huge 18-wheeler passes you.
You naturally assume the driver has been rigorously trained
and tested on how to handle the rig and has been issued
a valid license.
of them have. But not all, as the FBI Joint Terrorism Task
Force (JTTF) in Salt Lake City learned recently.
the JTTF (made up of the FBI, the Utah Department of Public
Safety, the State Bureau of Investigation, and 10 other state
and federal agencies) put a stop to it last month, truck drivers
could obtain a Utah commercial driver's license without training,
road testing, proper written examination, or identification
-- creating not only a public safety threat, but a potential
terrorism threat as well.
did it work? The nearly year-long investigation --
known as "Operation Road Warrior" -- uncovered a
scheme where people could just pony up $500 to $1,500 to one
of three contractors for the Utah Driver's License Division.
Fifteen minutes later, they could walk away with a document
certifying them as competent to obtain a commercial drivers
license from the state. For several hundred dollars more,
they could even buy the answers to the written test.
results? The three contractors -- known as "third-party
testers" -- were indicted November 25 by a federal grand
jury. Some 50 truck drivers were also charged and forced to
surrender their licenses -- allegedly for using false Social
Security numbers to obtain licenses, for violating their immigration
status, or both. Most of the drivers have pled guilty.
risks: In a tragic example of the dangers involved,
one truck driver who got his license through an indicted contractor
was charged in July with causing a fiery crash near Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, that killed a family of five. Although it is
unclear whether he obtained his license illegally, the truck
driver -- a Bosnian immigrant -- could not speak, write, or
read English, much less take written tests in English. Another
man licensed by one of the contractors was a deaf mute.
the terrorist threat? Commercial vehicles could easily
transport people, weapons, chemicals, and hazardous materials
for use in terrorist acts. None of those charged so far has
been found to have ties to terrorist groups, but in the words
of Utah Public Safety Commissioner Robert Flowers: "We
figure if these individuals can get this license this way,
could not a terrorist do it also?"
already know the FBI is working with its law enforcement partners
across the country to keep America's streets safe. By putting
a stop to driver's license fraud, we're keeping the roads
Security Administration Press Release | Related
Photo courtesy of the Department of Transportation.