DMV security lapses many, investigation could result

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 15, 2000

SANTA ANA — The state Department of Motor Vehicles reportedly took eight years to catch up with a convicted felon using aliases due in part to security lapses within the agency. 

Randall Clifton King, 44, allegedly obtained 83 licenses with numerous aliases, using plastic surgery and hair dye to alter his appearance over the years, according to DMV documents and police records obtained by The Orange County Register. 

Using internal documents and interviews with DMV investigators, the newspaper reported Tuesday that as many as 100,000 fraudulent licenses are issued each year. DMV management says the number is much lower. 

The report is part of the Register’s ongoing series examining the DMV. It has found serious security lapses with the DMV driver’s license application process, triggering a Senate Transportation Committee hearing Thursday to investigate the problem. 

DMV Director Steven Gourley told The Associated Press that the Kling case is proof it is doing its job. 

“We’re trying to get a stranglehold on crime over here. This guy was active and wandering for years before I ever took office. ... I think what this case shows is the perseverance of the DMV and the fed and every other state agency to crack down on these guys,” Gourley said Tuesday after reviewing the article. 

A review of the records by the Register shows the fraudulent licenses are often used by identity thieves, illegal immigrants and minor seeking licenses that say they are 21. 

But DMV spokesman Bill Branch disputed the newspaper’s findings, saying last year 27,481 fraud cases were reported, including 2,400 identity theft cases. 

Kling was arrested Oct. 18 in Folsom and faces trial next month on 17 counts of mail fraud in federal court in connection with the alleged driver’s license scheme. King’s attorney, Mary French, declined comment on the case. 

In 1992, Kling obtained 13 fraudulent licenses, including some through identity theft, internal DMV records show. He was arrested in 1993 for those crimes and sentenced to three years in state prison. 

But four years after Kling was released from prison, he allegedly secured 70 fraudulent licenses within four months during 1999, according to DMV records. 

Investigators say he dyed his hair and used glue, even hairspray, on his hands to alter his thumbprints or make them unreadable. 

“Licenses were sent to numerous addresses throughout the state,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Vicki Nelson. “He used the licenses as identification to open up checking accounts statewide. It was a statewide scheme.” 

DMV officials said they are now checking the identification of all Californians who apply for duplicate licenses to stop identity theft. A 1995 law, amended in 1999, requires the DMV checks. 

But the Register found that clerks frequently skip the step. 

Gourley said the checks were a “policy of the department and I have absolute faith in the employees.” 

The DMV is also now checking Social Security numbers of driver’s license applicants for the first time, making it more difficult to obtain fraudulent documents. 

But authorities say the reforms would not necessarily stop schemes similar to those allegedly used by Kling. 

“We need to take a fingerprint or retinal scan or DNA sample,” said Warner Raes, vice president of the International Association of Financial Crime Investigators and an Anaheim police detective. “We need something to link the human being with the document. It’s not enough to say, ‘Fill this out and give us a birth certificate.”’ 

Gourley agreed new technology was needed, but said it wasn’t the only solution. 

“I think everybody agrees until that technology is in place the bad guys are going to try to attack the system,” he said. “The key is to use every means we have available right now to stop it. I think we’re doing that.”