Attorney General & MVC Chief Announce New Charges Resulting From High-Tech Program “Operation Facial Scrub” To Detect False Driver’s Licenses
Attorney General’s Office charged 69 new defendants in past year, bringing total charged to 107
TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and Motor Vehicle Commission Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez today announced that 69 new criminal cases have been filed during the past year by the Division of Criminal Justice as a result of the high-tech facial recognition program “Operation Facial Scrub,” which is used to detect individuals who obtain New Jersey driver’s licenses using false identities. That brings the total criminal cases filed by the Attorney General’s Office under the program to 107, including 38 cases announced a year ago when the program was first showcased.
Most of the 69 new defendants charged by the Division of Criminal Justice obtained fraudulent licenses after their real licenses had been suspended. However, the new cases also include convicted felons who used aliases to hide their records. Of those with suspended licenses, 17 had drunken driving convictions, including 12 with multiple DUI convictions. Eighteen of the new cases involve individuals who used false identities to obtain commercial driver’s licenses to drive trucks or buses. Ten of the 107 offenders charged under the program have already been sentenced to prison or jail. Because of the volume of cases developed in Operation Facial Scrub, a partnership was launched in January 2013 with the 21 County Prosecutors’ Offices, which are filing significant cases of this type in addition to the 107 cases filed by the Attorney General’s Office.
“Through the Facial Scrub program, we have charged more than 100 defendants with obtaining false driver’s licenses, including truck and bus drivers whose licenses were suspended due to DUI convictions or other serious driving infractions, and sex offenders and other felons who tried to hide their criminal records,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We are aggressively pursuing these cases to get dangerous drivers off our highways and ensure that criminals cannot use this powerful form of identification to commit further crimes.”
In December 2011, the Motor Vehicle Commission embarked on Operation Facial Scrub, one of its most promising fraud prevention initiatives. Using facial recognition technology, the MVC began a full “scrub” of its photo record database, which has grown to 23 million images, to identify any duplicative photo records that may indicate administrative errors or customer fraud. Since that time, more than 1.8 million matches have been reviewed by MVC security professionals and internal action has been taken when warranted. Of those, approximately 5,000 suspension cases were identified, which required customers to re-verify their identities with the MVC. In all, administrative suspensions are expected to be imposed on approximately 2,100 individuals for misstatements of identification.
The MVC has referred approximately 985 potential criminal cases to the Attorney General’s Office. Hundreds of those cases have been delegated for further investigation to the County Prosecutors’ Partnership. Information on false licenses also is shared via a secure website with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task force and 23 state and federal partners and benefit providers, such as the federal Department of State-Passport Security, the Social Security Administration and the New Jersey Departments of Labor and Human Services, so they can pursue cases of fraud.
In addition to scrubbing the 23 million photos in the system, the MVC is working diligently to maintain the integrity of the database through a nightly scrub of all new photos taken at its 39 agencies statewide. This ensures that attempted fraud will be identified and interdicted quickly.
“Digital driver’s licenses can be used to open a bank account, obtain a credit card, board an airplane or apply for governmental benefits,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “When a criminal fraudulently obtains a license and assumes a false identity, the potential for further fraud and harm is great. We are working closely with the Motor Vehicle Commission to detect these criminals and protect the public.”
“In addition to the obvious law enforcement component of the Facial Scrub program, having a clean motor vehicle database allows me to offer certain customer service conveniences like our Skip the Trip program,” said MVC Chairman and Chief Administrator Raymond P. Martinez. The highly-successful mail-in license renewal initiative has removed almost 700,000 motor vehicle customers from the agencies, and wait times for those customers who have to visit an agency have dropped significantly.
The 69 new criminal cases filed by the Division of Criminal Justice include the following defendants, each of whom was charged with use of personal identifying information of another (2nd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), and, in some cases, forgery (3rd degree):
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a $15,000 fine. The pending charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The following defendants from the first round of 38 criminal cases announced one year ago have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison or jail terms:
As results came in from the initial scrub, the MVC expanded the sharing of its valuable Operation Facial Scrub information by establishing the Aggregated Investigative Reporting Service (AIRS) in June 2012. This secure system, featuring users from the Joint Terrorism Task Force and 23 state and federal agencies, allows strategic sharing of information with partners that may be susceptible to fraud committed by the same individuals already investigated by the MVC. With real-time access to the information, the agencies can review and evaluate the identified individuals and pursue cases as well. The MVC, Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey Office of Information Technology have implemented a secure AIRS website, which serves as a central clearinghouse for key information on potential criminal fraud suspects identified through Operation Facial Scrub.
The AIRS website will serve as an enduring fraud prevention tool for government benefit providers and law enforcement even after the completion of Operation Facial Scrub (FS-12). Additionally, as a result of FS-12 and the daily scrub operations, the MVC now boasts a photo image repository that is free from this form of identity fraud. Finally, and most importantly, as FS-12 nears its completion the MVC has seen the rate of this type of attempted identity fraud drop to nearly zero.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman commended the attorneys and detectives who worked on the criminal investigations. They include Deputy Attorney General Jill Mayer, Chief of the Specialized Crimes Bureau, Deputy Attorney General Jacqueline Smith, Deputy Bureau Chief, Deputy Attorney General Paul Salvatoriello, Acting Deputy Bureau Chief, Assistant Attorney General Louise Lester, and Deputy Attorneys General Anthony Torntore, Debra Conrad, Lilianne Daniel, Mary Erin McAnally, Jeffrey Barile, Michael King, Brian Carney, John Paone, Martin Steiner and Valerie Noto of the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau; Detectives Cecil Boone, Franco Cignarella, Michael Duffield, Sean Egan, Christian Harden, Kelly Howard, Joseph McCray and Nicholas Olenick, and Civil Investigator Ruben Contreras of the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Lt. Bill Newsome; and the following Detectives from the New Jersey State Police: Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Adams, Sgt. Aaron Auclair, Sgt. 1st Class Enrique Bryan, Sgt. 1st Class James Carnival, Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Catterson, Sgt. 1st Class James Mitchell, Sgt. Jeovanny Rodriguez, Sgt. Keith Roslan and Sgt. 1st Class Wanda Stojanov, under the supervision of Lt. Stan Field of the Auto Unit. Acting Attorney General Hoffman also commended the clerical and professional staff in the DCJ Specialized Crimes Bureau who processed the cases.
Chief Administrator Martinez and Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security, the New Jersey State Police, all 21 County Prosecutors, the Office of Information Technology, all of the AIRS partners, the MVC Division of Security, Investigation & Internal Audit, and the various other internal divisions that assisted the MVC in implementing Operation Facial Scrub.