MVA needs an impartial probe

February 28, 1992

The Motor Vehicle Administration has been so defensive about evidence of widespread issuance of bogus driver's licenses that it is in no position to investigate itself. For that reason, we urge Gov. William Donald Schaefer to appoint an independent panel to investigate the situation and ensure that corrective reforms are instituted.

The situation that has been reported in The Sun and ThEvening Sun is extraordinary.

Apparently for years, criminals have had no trouble securing bogus driver's licenses from MVA that they then have used as proof of identity in fraudulent check-cashing schemes and credit card purchases. Never mind that in many cases the criminals' physical and racial characteristics were quite different from those of the stolen licenses' original holders.

We are sick and tired of hearing justifications from MVA officials for this mess. Listen to MVA administrator W. Marshall Rickert, for example: "We don't issue these documents casually. 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."

C'mon, Mr. Rickert.

Technology played no role in issuing bogus driver's licenses. They were handed out by MVA employees who either were in cahoots with criminals or were willfully neglectful in catching obvious frauds.

In many states a driver's license is the universally acknowledged basic identification card. That's why a license is often called a "positive proof of identification." If its integrity becomes questionable in Maryland, many forms of everyday transactions may become more time-consuming and difficult to conduct.

Recent misuses require MVA not only to tighten procedural safeguards but also to detect dishonest or incompetent employees and weed them out. This is the least we owe to Vitalis V. Pilius and other victims of outrageous criminal schemes. We also owe this to the many conscientious and dedicated MVA employees who are seeing their reputations tarnished because of the actions of a few who went wrong.

The kidnapping and killing of Mr. Pilius has uncovered a number of disturbing procedural and personnel weaknesses in the operation of both MVA and the Maryland State Police. These shortcomings are so serious that they mandate an impartial investigation so that faith in these important state institutions can be restored.

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