A DMV employee faces up to 20 years in prison in the latest conviction stemming from a federal investigation that uncovered a web of fraud, conspiracy and bribes involving state employees and truck driving schools scheming to buy bogus licenses, the U.S. Attorney's Office reported Wednesday.
A federal jury found Robert S. Turchin, 68, of Salinas guilty of conspiracy to commit bribery and identity fraud and three counts of identity fraud, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced in a news release following a four-day trial.
The six-year probe by the FBI and other agencies resulted in charges against eight individuals and was the catalyst for over 600 licenses being revoked, including from drivers involved in over 20 accidents.
”It is alarming to think that unqualified persons were licensed to operate big rigs and buses on our public roadways,” Scott said.
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Turchin was an employee of the Salinas DMV field office from 2012 to 2015 and was responsible for conducting driver's license tests for tractor-trailer and commercials buses.
Trial evidence demonstrated that Central Truck Driving School owner Mangal Gill, 55, of San Ramon offered to acquire commercial licenses for people without having to take written or behind-the-wheel tests.
Gill commissioned Turchin and fellow Salinas DMV employee, Emma Klem, 45, to access the DMV database to fraudulently enter passing scores, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Evidence included video of undercover agents exchanging envelopes with DMV employees in a parking lot. The agents were able to obtain three commercial licenses and paid Gill over $12,000 to alter tests that the secret operatives either didn’t pass or otherwise take.
Evidence showed that Turchin and others falsified records for at least 40 individuals who wanted bogus licenses.
The scheme went on until March 28, 2015, after which agents searched Turchin’s car and found slips of paper with driver's license numbers that were to be updated, as well more than $10,000 in cash.
In addition to prison time, Turchin could face up to a $500,000 in fines when he's sentenced Sept. 21, according to the news release.
Co-defendants Gill and Klem, a 15-year DMV employee, previously pleaded guilty to counts of conspiracy to commit bribery and identity fraud and are awaiting sentencing.
Four DMV workers pleaded guilty last year in the Sacramento region as a result of the same federal probe, including one whose actions led to 123 phony commercial driver’s licenses to be issued.
Among them, Andrew Kimura, a DMV examiner in Sacramento pleaded guilty in May 2016 and was sentenced to 46 months in prison.