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2005-01-12 Home Front: WoT
Thousands worldwide obtained phony Michigan driver's licences
Federal agents are investigating criminal rings they say may have helped thousands of people obtain Michigan driver's licenses with phony information before the state beefed up requirements for applicants last month.

Authorities say they are targeting rings that allegedly sold the identifications while Michigan lagged behind other states in requiring proof of residency. They suspect the groups were bringing people to Michigan for months to get licenses they likely could not have gotten in other states, charging them stiff fees for the service, investigators said.

"We saw an alarming amount of ... cases where groups were bringing criminals or illegal aliens to Michigan for the sole purpose of obtaining a Michigan driver's license," said Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the Detroit office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. snip

Last month, Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land announced that first-time driver's license applicants must provide proof of Michigan residency when seeking a license, a move that critics say will help only slightly. State law always has required applicants to be Michigan residents, but previously they were not required to prove it. Now, people 18 and older seeking a license for the first time must show a utility bill, paycheck, a rental or mortgage agreement or documents that show they live at the address they claim.

The state had been examining its procedures and internal investigators noticed multiple licenses being mailed to the same address, said Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for Land. "We had no idea how widespread the problem was until we met with the U.S. Attorney's office in October," Chesney said. "We sent out a directive to our branch offices immediately on things to look out for."

Moskowitz said the move was needed to bring Michigan in line with other states. "No one wants to be put in the position of trying to defend why a Michigan driver's license was found in the rubble of some disaster," Moskowitz said. "I don't think it is out of the question to say that there are thousands of them out there." snip

Michigan's change came 10 months after a national association of driver's license issuers recommended the move and five months after ads ran in foreign-language newspapers targeting immigrants offering Michigan drivers licenses in 48 hours for $1,000. "It's not like we waited," Chesney said. "There are a number of things that are under way at the federal level. We wanted to see what the feds are doing because it could substantially change the playing field."

Lax rules: It was so easy to get a Michigan license that criminal groups were advertising quick access to them, Moskowitz said. Some of the ads appeared in July in the Brazilian Voice, a Portuguese-language newspaper published in Newark, N.J. and circulated among Brazilian-Americans on the East Coast. It included a picture of a Michigan license.

Moskowitz said the organizers brought the applicants to Michigan with phony identification papers and used local addresses where the criminals could have the licenses mailed. The licenses were forwarded to the applicants from there. "When the underlying documents are fraudulent, getting a license is easy," Moskowitz said. "Our real concern is that criminals or potential terrorists are trying to embed themselves among us."

State officials continue to work with federal agents to improve the system, Chesney said. "This is a very good first step," Moskowitz said.

'F-plus': But Michigan's efforts, and those of other states, remain inadequate to safeguard the country, said Amitai Etzioni, a sociology professor at George Washington University who studies technology and privacy issues. Michigan was one of four states to earn the grade of F in a 2003 national study Etzioni conducted. Etzioni examined four security procedures that he said indicate rigor of each state's procedure. He checked to see if states:

• Used the Social Security Administration's online verification system to ensure an applicant has a valid number.

• Required applicants to prove they are in the country legally.

• Tied license expiration dates to end-of-stay dates on visas of non-citizens.

• Collected fingerprints, facial scans or other physical measures.

Michigan currently does none of those things, and the added requirement on proving Michigan residence doesn't address them, Etzioni said. "Anybody can get a utility bill with any name you want on it," he said. "Let's move them up to an F-plus."

Michigan is exploring an electronic Social Security verification system but hasn't adopted one yet, Chesney said. Thirty-eight states use an online verification system set up by the Social Security Administration, said Jason King, spokesman for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, a national group of state agencies that issue licenses.

"In real time, it can tell you, yes we have a person with that date of birth and Social Security number in our database or no we don't," King said. "The cost is 3 cents per record to the states." King said his group released a security framework in February 2004 that covers some of these issues and states have been adopting various parts of it. All states now use digital photographs of drivers, which can be kept on computer files. But other changes have been adopted slower because they often are expensive and in some cases require new laws.

Michigan was the last state in the nation to collect Social Security numbers from drivers because Land worried about privacy concerns. The state asked the federal government for permission to cross-reference Social Security numbers provided for driver's licenses with those on tax returns filed with the Michigan Department of Treasury, but the request was denied, Chesney said.

Chesney said Michigan is moving carefully on the matters, which have sparked considerable debate. Some states that required people to prove they were in the country legally are now backing away from those requirements, she said.

Immigrant rights groups oppose measures that would deny people a license because of their immigration status. A driver's license ensures the driver knows the laws of the roads and is in the system for identification purposes, said Tyler Moran, a policy analyst for the National Immigration Law Center.

Etzioni said the states can take steps that are less controversial. Establishing a network so states can instantly check to see if a motorist is licensed in another state would help, he said. Digitizing birth and death records would allow fast computer searches to ensure someone was still alive.

Some of those changes are mandated in a new intelligence bill that Congress recently passed, said Kenneth Beam, executive director of the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems, a group of state agencies that collect birth and death records. The federal government is expected to draw up new standards for issuing birth and death records within the next 12 months, Beam said.

"Within five years, all birth and death records have to be matched," Beam said.

Etzioni said states should move quickly. "It's been almost four years since September 11," Etzioni said. "This is not nuclear science we're talking about."
Posted by trailing wife 2005-01-12 3:13:31 PM|| E-Mail|| Front Page|| [6460 views since 2007-05-07]  Top

#1 Is that what it was in my Cracker Jack box...a Michigan driver's license.
Posted by Captain America  2005-01-12 5:17:12 PM||   2005-01-12 5:17:12 PM|| Front Page Top

#2 Why Michigan? Just wondering...hmmmm.
Posted by Mrs. Davis 2005-01-12 5:38:56 PM||   2005-01-12 5:38:56 PM|| Front Page Top

#3 *Most terrorist attacks since 9/11 have been carried out by Muslim terrorists.
* 15 of 19 9/11 terrorists did not have current/valid ID to be in the US.
*Thousands of phony Michigan licenses have been issued to foreigners who are here illegally.
*A huge number of Arab (Muslim) immigrants has settled in Michigan.

"No one wants to be put in the position of trying to defend why a Michigan driver’s license was found in the rubble of some disaster," Moskowitz said..."

You folks better think long and hard about your PC.
Posted by Jules 187 2005-01-12 5:41:49 PM||   2005-01-12 5:41:49 PM|| Front Page Top

#4 gosh..Mrs. D. Good question ;-)
Posted by 2b 2005-01-12 5:42:04 PM||   2005-01-12 5:42:04 PM|| Front Page Top

#5 Michigan? Easy. Short hop from Canada over the Ambassador Bridge. First stop is Detroit, a ramshackle industrial monster with a basket-case government, completely incompetent police and unlimited safe houses for anyone wishing to conceal a terrorist.
Posted by lex 2005-01-12 5:50:40 PM||   2005-01-12 5:50:40 PM|| Front Page Top

#6 A driver’s license ensures the driver knows the laws of the roads and is in the system for identification purposes, said Tyler Moran, a policy analyst for the National Immigration Law Center.

I'm coming to the reluctant conclusion that a driver license should not be used as a form of identification, outside of proving one is allowed to drive by the issuing state.
Posted by Pappy 2005-01-12 7:41:09 PM||   2005-01-12 7:41:09 PM|| Front Page Top

#7 Gotten a new3 DL lately, Pappy? It's worse than and I-9. The only thing better will be the collection of biometric data into a central database. Sad. I prefer genocide to a national ID, but I'm not gonna win on that one.
Posted by Mrs. Davis 2005-01-12 7:44:32 PM||   2005-01-12 7:44:32 PM|| Front Page Top

#8 Not sure about completely incompetent police force lex, corrupt yes, half of the good ones there are hamstrung by rediculous pc policies. The rest is true. Plus all the arabs and muslims in nearby Dearborn. My hometown is a cesspool.
Posted by Hupereger Clish6229 aka Jarhead 2005-01-12 9:48:29 PM||   2005-01-12 9:48:29 PM|| Front Page Top

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