Nearly 700 New Jersey residents could face criminal charges for obtaining New Jersey driver’s licenses using false identities, state officials announced Tuesday.
Officials are touting the new high-tech facial recognition software, dubbed “Operation Facial Scrub,” to enforce the crackdown, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and Motor Vehicle Commission Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez said.
The effort has resulted in more than 1,800 license suspensions thus far, officials said.
More than 600 potential criminal cases have been referred to the attorney general’s office since the program began in December 2011. Of those cases, Chiesa announced the first wave of 38 criminal prosecutions today – including a Morristown resident, an Englewood resident and a Newark resident - and said more than 669 potential criminal cases have been referred to the attorney general’s office.
The software is designed to study the MVC’s 19-million photo record database to identify any duplicative photo records that may indicate administrative errors or customer fraud.
Last year, MVC security staff began to analyze the results after more than 600,000 matches were reviewed.
“A driver’s license is a powerful document that enables the holder to open financial accounts, obtain and drive motor vehicles, and board airplanes,” Chiesa said. “We know the 9/11 terrorists had fraudulent licenses from other states. By detecting individuals who have false licenses, law enforcement can potentially uncover other types of crime that these individuals may be involved in, including identity theft, financial fraud and even terrorism.”
“Those of us in business and government who regularly handle sensitive information always talk about weeding out fraud and abuse,” Martinez said. “This security tool really provides us with that extra edge to thoroughly comb through our records and identify everything from simple record errors to more egregious acts of fraud.”
“Our first 38 criminal prosecutions in Operation Facial Scrub include truck and bus drivers who have no business being on our roadways and registered sex offenders who tried to hide their criminal pasts,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to work with the Motor Vehicle Commission and our law enforcement partners to detect and aggressively prosecute criminals who obtain licenses using false identities.”
Officials say the arrested men include:
◆ Jorge Trujillo, 50, of Morristown. Trujillo allegedly used false information to obtain a commercial driver’s license. He was indicted on the current charges on Nov. 30, 2012 on four counts each of using personal identifying information of another in the second degree and tampering with public records in the third degree.
◆ Ramon Hazell, 63, of Englewood. Hazell was charged in three driving under the influence charges. He was indicted on the current charges on Jan. 11, 2013 for using personal identifying information of another in the second degree and tampering with public records in the third degree.
◆ Jose Marte, 50, of Newark. Marte currently has three license suspensions. He was indicted on the current charges on Nov. 14, 2012 for using personal identifying information of another in the second degree and tampering with public records in the third degree.
The second-degree charges against the defendants carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while the third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a $15,000 fine.