|TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a former clerk at the Jersey City Motor Vehicle Agency was sentenced to state prison today for illegally selling New Jersey digital driver’s licenses to unauthorized persons.
Sonia Noel, 49, of Union City, a former clerk in the Jersey City Motor Vehicle Agency, was sentenced to four years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Paul M. DePascale in Hudson County. She was ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution and is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. Noel pleaded guilty on June 22 to second-degree conspiracy, a charge contained in a Dec. 5, 2011, state grand jury indictment. She admitted that, on more than one occasion in 2008, she entered false information into the MVC database in connection with sales of New Jersey driver’s licenses to two people who did not have the required six points of identification.
Deputy Attorney General Frank Brady prosecuted the case and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau.
“We will continue to aggressively prosecute anyone who unlawfully sells New Jersey digital driver’s licenses,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “When corrupt employees like this clerk violate the public’s trust and sell licenses to unauthorized persons, it can open the door to con artists and even terrorists fraudulently using this powerful form of identification in their criminal activities.”
“This year the Motor Vehicle Commission deployed powerful facial scrub technology to detect fraudulent licenses,” said Stephen J. Taylor, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We are working closely with the MVC to investigate those who acquire such licenses, so that we can uncover illegal license brokering schemes and other crimes.”
Noel’s daughter, Melody Noel, 27, of Union City, who was also a clerk at the Jersey City Motor Vehicle Agency, pleaded guilty to third-degree tampering with public records or information, admitting that she assisted in processing the application for one of the driver’s licenses sold by her mother. Melody Noel was sentenced on June 22 to two years of probation, 50 hours of community service, and a $1,000 fine. She is also permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
In addition, one of the customers who illegally purchased a license from Sonia Noel, Hernan Chica, 54, of Hackensack, pleaded guilty to third-degree computer criminal activity. Chica was sentenced on June 22 to two years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $750 fine.
A fourth defendant was indicted along with the Noels and Chica for allegedly brokering the illegal sales of licenses. The alleged broker, Peter Louveras, 33, of East Rutherford, faces pending charges including second-degree counts of conspiracy, official misconduct and bribery. The charges against him are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The defendants were among 40 defendants named in indictments unsealed on Dec. 5, 2011, which also alleged conspiracies to illegally sell driver’s licenses out of the East Orange, Edison, North Bergen and Lodi motor vehicle agencies. In some cases, the customers, who are foreign nationals, did not qualify for a license because they were in the U.S. illegally. In other cases, they lacked sufficient documentation. The customers paid $2,500 to $7,000 for a license or license renewal, and the MVC clerks and brokers split the proceeds. The indictments resulted from joint investigations by the Division of Criminal Justice MVC Unit, within the Specialized Crimes Bureau, and the Motor Vehicle Commission’s Division of Security, Investigation and Internal Audit.
Attorney General Chiesa and Director Taylor noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The public can also log on to the Division of Criminal Justice webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received through the Division of Criminal Justice tipline or webpage will remain confidential.