Tuesday, May 10, 2011

46 NYC Commercial Drivers Charged with Felonies

CBS New York: Nearly four dozen drivers of tour buses, New York City buses, taxis and other commercial vehicles are being charged with felonies for holding commercial licenses even though they had other licenses suspended under different names, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

The latest and broadest crackdown on commercial drivers comes after a March tour bus crash that killed 15 people returning to New York City from a casino in Connecticut. It makes use of facial recognition technology that matches photos of driver’s licenses issued under other names.

The licensed drivers include four working for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, one of whom is a mechanic who also drives buses in MTA facilities. The driver’s licenses are suspended pending court action.

“Many of the individuals arrested today obtained multiple driver licenses in order to collect benefits, and even worse, to conceal violent criminal histories,” said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Drivers accused of using aliases to obtain multiple licenses are being charged with offering a false instrument for filing and falsifying business records. In addition, several drivers had a long list of pending traffic tickets to which they never responded and now face aggravated unlicensed operation charges. Others were wanted under felony warrants or had been sought for deportation. Nineteen drove taxis.

Since the March 12 crash, Cuomo has directed the state Department of Motor Vehicles, Inspector General Ellen Biben and the state Department of Transportation to work with local police and prosecutors to scrutinize the tour bus industry in New York. Last month, nearly 100 buses and more than 100 bus drivers were removed from the road in surprise inspections.

The state Department of Transportation has made 1,960 surprise roadside inspections since March 17. State police issued 197 tickets and 173 bus drivers and 143 buses were sidelined. The DMV’s facial recognition technology, first used last year, has so far identified more than 3,000 people with multiple licenses. More than 600 were arrested on felony charges.

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