The cases are being filed as the result of “Operation Facial Scrub,” which uses a high tech facial recognition program to identify individuals who obtained driver’s licenses in the state under a false identity.
Suspects from Camden County who were charged with use of personal identifying information of another (a second degree crime), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), and, in some cases, forgery (3rd degree) include:
· Michael Cuff, 54, of Runnemede, allegedly used the identity of a disabled relative to obtain a driver’s license after his license was suspended in connection with six DUI convictions;
· William Gies, 55, of Blackwood, allegedly used the identity of a brother who lives in California to obtain a driver’s license after his license was suspended in connection with five DUI convictions and one refusal to submit to a breath test. He pleaded guilty to tampering with public records and faces a sentence of six months in jail and a term of probation; and
· Ramon Rodriguez, 50, of Camden, used the identity of a deceased relative of his wife to obtain a license because his license had been suspended as a result of numerous motor vehicle violations. He pleaded guilty to tampering with public records and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and two years of probation.
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.
Operation Facial Scrub began in 2011 and was showcased for the first time last year when charges were filed in 38 criminal cases. To date, a total of 107 cases have been filed. Seven of the original 38 defendants pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to prison terms.
The Motor Vehicle Commission began a full “scrub” of its photo record database, which has grown to 23 million images, to identify any duplicative photo records in 2011. Since then, more than 1.8 million matches have been reviewed by Motor Vehicle Commission 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 Motor Vehicle Commission. In all, administrative suspensions are expected on approximately 2,100 individuals for misstatements of identification.
The Motor Vehicle Commission has referred about 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 Motor Vehicle Commission 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.
Most of the new cases charge defendants that obtained fraudulent licenses after their license was suspended. Of those with suspended licenses, 17 had been convicted on drunken driving violations, including 12 with multiple offenses.
“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,” Hoffman said. “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.”