In recent crime spree, city's image was victim, too MVA worker may have helped suspect get fraudulent license

February 22, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. and Roger Twigg | William F. Zorzi Jr. and Roger Twigg,Staff Writers Thomas W. Waldron and Joe Nawrozki contributed to this story.

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration officials yesterday suspended a Mondawmin branch employee who investigators believe issued a fraudulent license to Dontay Carter, the man charged with a murder and a series of recent kidnappings from Baltimore parking garages.

MVA officials suspended the employee from the Northwest Baltimore office late yesterday afternoon, pending a move to fire theemployee for negligence, said W. Marshall Rickert, the agency administrator.

Mr. Rickert refused to elaborate or to identify the employee, saying only that the matter was still under investigation by the MVA and the state police. But sources familiar with the probe said the employee is a woman believed to be an acquaintance of Carter's. One source said the employee was asked to take a polygraph and refused.

Another source said the employee may have taken money -- about$50 -- for producing the fraudulent license. She has denied any involvement, the sources said.

Mr. Rickert said that he did not know if criminal charges would be filed against the employee, adding that such a decision would fall under state police jurisdiction.

The probe of the license fraud stems from the murder investigation of Vitalis V. Pilius, whom Carter is charged with abducting and killing. Carter allegedly took Mr. Pilius' driver's license, credit cards and car during the Feb. 11 incident.

Carter, an 18-year-old black man, then burned the picture of Mr. Pilius, a 37-year-old white man, off his license and requested a replacement copy at the MVA's Mondawmin branch, investigators believe.

On two occasions after Mr. Pilius' kidnapping, state troopers stopped Carter and checked the fraudulent license, but let him go. State police are investigating both incidents.

Meanwhile in Annapolis yesterday, Gov. William Donald Schaefer directed Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer and Public Safety Secretary Bishop L. Robinson to take personal charge of the investigations in their departments.

"I've asked Bishop Robinson personally to take charge of the investigation of the state police and come up with a report as soon as possible," Governor Schaefer said. "I don't understand how a card could be issued when it says on it [MVA records] 'white male' and it's [the license] issued to a black male."

"We'll take action if we find any irregularities," he said. "I want it thorough. It won't be one of those protracted, long investigations. I can understand an error. If it's a very obvious thing that you're giving the card to the wrong man, that's a little more than an . . . error."

The superintendent of the state police yesterday said he was "not happy" that Dontay Carter "slipped through our system" after twice using the doctored driver's license to avoid being detained for questioning by state troopers.

"I have concerns in what happened . . . that we had him. This makes us again look at our procedures" on how potential suspects are questioned, Col. Elmer H. Tippett Jr. said.

Mr. Rickert said last night that there are specific guidelines as to the identification required, including viewing other forms such as a passport or birth certificate, to corroborate the identify of a license applicant.

Attempts to obtain fraudulent licenses are made at MVA offices every day, Mr. Rickert said, and "we have tight procedures that we follow to avoid this."

On Feb. 12, the day after Mr. Pilius was abducted from a downtown parking garage, robbed and slain, a state trooper stopped his alleged killer for speeding. The man showed the trooper Mr. Pilius' driver's license.

But after running a check and learning that Mr. Pilius was a 37-year-old white man and had been reported missing, the trooper allowed the 18-year-old black suspect to drive away with only a warning ticket.

Only a day earlier, state troopers at Baltimore-Washington International Airport were called to the airport's Budget car rental desk where a man believed to have been Carter used Mr. Pilius' identification in an attempt to rent a car.

A suspicious Budget employee, noticing the age discrepancy, summoned police. After the troopers arrived, the man grew belligerent at being questioned and he was allowed to leave.

Earlier that day, Carter also apparently tried to rent a car at a downtown Budget location by using Mr. Pilius' American Express card. He was turned down because his signature did not match the one on the credit card.

The American Express card was later confiscated at the airport rental desk after being flagged by the credit card company, police have said.

Three East Baltimore teen-agers also have been charged in connection with the murder of Mr. Pilius or two other abductions.

Carter was arrested Feb. 14 -- two days after the traffic stop -- during the attempted abduction of a third person.

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