CONYERS - A Conyers woman and a Covington man are among four former Georgia Department of Driver Services employees that have been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to commit identity fraud and identity theft by issuing Georgia driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Shijuanna V. Cobb, 33, of Ellenwood, Rickell M. Patterson, 31, of Covington, Angela R. Read, 38, of Lithonia, and Chardye M. Lloyd, 23, of Conyers, conspired with Harikrishna A. Patel, 26, of Snellville, and Satishkumar B. Patel, 48, of Nashville, Tenn., in a scheme to issue a total of 136 licenses to applicants who did not qualify for them under Georgia law.
U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said that between January and August 2007, Harikrishna Patel charged illegal immigrants between $7,000 and $8,000 apiece to help them obtain driver's licenses at the DDS Customer Service Center No. 67, located in Lithonia. Harikrishna Patel allegedly arranged with Cobb or Patterson to have the immigrants receive licenses, and in return for payments of unknown amounts from Patel, Cobb, Patterson, Read or Lloyd, allegedly issued the licenses without requiring the immigrants to take any tests or to produce proof of legal residency in Georgia.
The indictment charges that Satishkumar Patel participated in the conspiracy by transporting illegal immigrants from Nashville to Lithonia, where Harikrishna Patel arranged for them to obtain licenses from Cobb or Patterson.
Cobb, Patterson, Read and Lloyd are also charged in a separate indictment with conspiring to unlawfully issue commercial driver's licenses or commercial learner's permits between August 2006 and November 2007.
Georgia law requires applicants to pass written exams before they may be issued commercial licenses. The indictment charges that the conspirators manually input passing exam scores in the DDS computer system, making it possible for them to issue the licenses and permits to Cobb, Patterson, Read and two unindicted people identified by the initials "A.A." and "D.M." The indictment further charges that Cobb, Read and D.M. used their illegal commercial licenses to work as MARTA bus drivers, while A.A. used his to work as a commercial truck driver.
"Corruption in public employment is intolerable," said Nahmias. "Our office has a long tradition of investigating and prosecuting those who violate the public's trust at every level of government. In this case, several Driver Services examiners allegedly abused their positions for cash, allowing more than 130 illegal aliens to fraudulently obtain a critically important identification document, and for commercial driver's licenses, which enabled them to endanger the public by working as unqualified bus drivers."
The indictments charge the defendants with several counts of conspiracy, identity fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Harikrishna Patel, Satishkumar Patel, Cobb, Patterson, Read and Lloyd are charged with conspiring to commit identity fraud. Harikrishna Patel and Cobb are charged with two counts of aiding and abetting each other in identity fraud and aggravated identity theft. Harikrishna Patel and Patterson are charged with two counts of aiding and abetting each other in identity fraud and aggravated identity theft. Read and Lloyd are each charged with two counts of identity fraud and aggravated identity theft. Additionally, Cobb, Patterson, Read and Lloyd are charged with conspiring to commit identity fraud in the issuance of commercial driver's licenses, and they are charged with aiding and abetting each other in the transfer of fraudulent identification documents. The conspiracy and identity fraud charges carry maximum sentences of 15 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 per count. The aggravated identity theft charges carry mandatory minimum sentences of two years in prison, to be served consecutively to any other sentences imposed.
Harikrishna Patel, Cobb, Patterson, Read and Lloyd were arrested and arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman late Wednesday. Satishkumar Patel was also arrested Wednesday and was scheduled to make his initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Court judge in Nashville sometime Thursday.
The DDS has announced it will cancel all of the licenses involved in the case. The identity and location of the other recipients of fraudulent licenses remain under investigation. Cobb, Read and Lloyd left their jobs as license examiners in late 2007 or early 2008, and the DDS terminated Patterson from her position in September 2008.