Victims criticize MVA's ID checks Administrator says the current system is "comprehensive."

February 27, 1992|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Last April, the FBI subpoenaed Carolyn A. Armwood and questioned her about $129,000 that had been fraudulently obtained from two banks by someone using a bogus driver's license with her name on it.

"I was shocked. They treated me just like anyone who might have been involved in the crime. I was photographed, fingerprinted and given a handwriting analysis test," recalled Mrs. Armwood, a federal employee.

She was cleared after the FBI found that the banks had been defrauded by a woman who had used a bogus driver's license bearing Mrs. Armwood's name and address.

The identification had been obtained from an old license that Mrs. Armwood had relinquished to the Motor Vehicle Administration several months after she married.

"You see things like this on television, but you never expect it to happen to you," she said. "It just seems as though there aren't enough checks at the MVA to keep this from happening to innocent people."

Five people eventually were arrested in connection with the bank scam and at least four of them had fraudulent driver's licenses, said Andrew S. Manning, an FBI spokesman. The driver's license used by one of the suspects carried Mrs. Armwood's maiden name and address, but it carried a picture of the suspect and the suspect's physical data.

"I turned in that license upon demand," Mrs. Armwood said. "It seems like it would have taken someone who works there [at the MVA] to do this."

Last week, an MVA employee was suspended after investigators linked her to Dontay Carter, an accused killer who obtained two fraudulent driver's licenses at the MVA's Mondawmin office.

After reading stories about Carter, several other people have told The Sun that they were victimized by crooks who fraudulently obtained driver's licenses and MVA-issued identification cards.

W. Marshall Rickert, MVA administrator, said officials are continuing to investigate how Carter obtained fraudulent licenses. A final report on the investigation, being conducted by MVA officials and city and State Police, will be sent to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, he said.

Mr. Rickert maintains that the issuance of false licenses and identification cards is not a widespread problem at the MVA.

"We don't issue these documents casually," Mr. Rickert said. "They required two to three forms of identification. I think the system is reasonable and comprehensive. . . . It is the best until technology becomes available to provide the potential for tightening up the system."

In several instances reported to The Sun, bogus driver's licenses and identification cards have been obtained from MVA branch offices at Mondawmin and Glen Burnie.

They were issued even though the race and other physical characteristics of the applicant did not match data in the MVA computer.

In one instance, a man went to the MVA office in Glen Burnie in November 1990, identified himself as Gary R. Glaser of Pikesville, and said he needed a duplicate driver's license because the original was lost.

Mr. Glaser said he learned through inquiries that the clerk correctly noted that the applicant was black and he is white.

The applicant told the clerk that there must have been a computer error because he had possessed a driver's license since he was 16 years old, Mr. Glaser said.

Mr. Glaser said the clerk noted the race discrepancy on a file card, but approved the duplicate license.

The crook used the fraudulent license to drain $11,000 from Mr. Glaser's bank account.

"I have more trouble cashing a check than this guy," Mr. Glaser said.

When he asked the MVA what happened, he said, agency employees "acted like it happens every day. It was like 'what do you expect us to do?' "

He added: "I asked them why they didn't check the signature of the guy. You know what they said? 'It would take too long.' "

After viewing videos of the suspect during some transactions, the bank reimbursed Mr. Glaser's accounts, he said.

"It is unbelievable that someone can wield so much power with a driver's license," Mr. Glaser said. "What I went through, Woody Allen could make a movie out of."

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