Arrests Made in Attempted Fraud at Local Assistance Center

California Department of Motor Vehicles
Media Relations Office
2415 First Avenue, MS F-122
Sacramento, CA 95818
Contact: DMV Public Affairs

September 15, 2010


Sacramento – Four individuals were arrested yesterday for allegedly submitting fraudulent driver license applications designed to help obtain benefits illegally at the San Bruno Local Assistance Center, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) announced today.

Two individuals – Niesha Taylor and Deonte Bennett, both of San Francisco – were arrested by the San Bruno Police Department and investigators from the DMV on site. Sonya Smith and Lisa Justin, both of San Bruno, were arrested later at their homes by San Bruno PD officers and investigators from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Each were arrested on multiple counts of burglary (P.C. section 460b); perjury (P.C. section 118); and, submitting false or forged documents to a government agency (P.C. section 115). All four are being held at the San Mateo County Jail

“For individuals to take advantage of a horrific situation is unconscionable, and will not be tolerated,“ said DMV Director, George Valverde. “The DMV and San Bruno Police Department worked together to not only ensure the integrity of our documents, but prevented benefits from being distributed to individuals who did not deserve them.“

DMV employees working at the center identified the fraudulent activity and subsequently notified investigators. Suspects were attempting to fraudulently obtain a driver license or identification card under assumed names using addresses in the burn zone area in order to gain free benefits and financial aid from various relief and government sources.

The Center, located on City Park Way, was established by the California Emergency Management Agency, in conjunction with San Mateo County to assist victims impacted by the Sept. 9 gas explosion that killed four people and injured dozens more in the City of San Bruno. The center closes at 6 p.m. today, and is jointly staffed by private and public sector organizations which provided food, clothing and various other services by government agencies, including the DMV.

Citizens impacted by the San Bruno gas explosion could qualify for up to $1500 in benefits from retailers including Old Navy, AT&T, Lenardi's Grocery Store, and PG&E. The DMV was on site to assist customers whose driver license documents may have been destroyed due to the blast.

Note to editors/reporters: Supervising Investigator Calvin Woo is available for media interviews at 415/330-6473.

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DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which is under the direction of Secretary Dale E. Bonner. The DMV licenses drivers; maintains driving records; registers and tracks official ownership of vehicles and vessels; investigates auto and identity-related fraud; and licenses car dealers, driving schools, and traffic violator schools.


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