Transportation chief eyes new ID system Computerized system would cost $20 million.

March 02, 1992|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer Jay Merwin and Joe Nawrozki contributed to this article.

A multimillion-dollar computer system that will enable Motor Vehicle Administration employees to check pictures and fingerprints of license applicants was being proposed today by the state transportation secretary as a means of reducing fraud.

The new technology under consideration by Secretary O. James Lighthizer is aimed at stopping the issuance of bogus driver's licenses -- a problem that came to light nearly three weeks ago when an 18-year-old black murder suspect obtained a license at the Mondawmin MVA office in the name of the 37-year-old white victim.

A female employee who issued a license to accused killer Dontay Carter for a reported $50 payoff has been suspended and granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for her cooperation in a broader investigation of illegal activities at the MVA. She has been placed in protective custody, officials said.

But unknown is what information she has provided to police in Baltimore, where Vitalis V. Pilius was abducted in his car from a downtown parking garage Feb. 11 and then killed in a vacant rowhouse.

State police investigators examining MVA practices independently have not been able to link other employees to the issuance of fraudulent licenses, according to a state government source familiar with the probe.

How Dontay Carter, showing a driver's license with his picture and the name of the murder victim, twice managed to avoid arrest also remains under investigation.

Reports on the investigations are due by March 9.

Deputy Secretary of Transportation Stephen G. Zentz said the MVA plans to request as much as $200,000 to explore new identification technologies and digital imaging computer systems.

Depending on the results of that study, he said, MVA would seek about $20 million in the state's capital budget, as early as fis

cal year 1994, to buy an advanced new identification system.

The equipment would enable the agency to electronically store a copy of each driver's license photograph for comparison purposes and eventually could be used for fingerprints.

The photo system technology is already available, but adequate technology for fingerprint collection and analysis still is several years away, Mr. Zentz said.

To ensure the integrity of driver's licenses is going to cost the public more money and time when visiting MVA offices, Mr. Lighthizer said.

The secretary also gave a vote of confidence to W. Marshall Rickert, the MVA administrator. Mr. Lighthizer said the head of the MVA has done an excellent job over the past five years in providing quick, efficient service to the public.

Mr. Lighthizer said "retail people have got to shoulder some of the responsibility [for current problems]."

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