Friday, October 30, 2020

Feds release identity of DPS employee accused of taking bribes for trucker licenses


A federal grand jury has indicted a pair of truckers and a Texas Department of Public Safety employee on charges that the employee took bribes from the truckers to issue more than 200 commercial driver’s licenses without the driver having to take the required skills test.

Alonzo Blackman, 62, had been a commercial driver’s license examiner for seven years when DPS suspended him amid the federal investigation that arose from an audit by DPS.

After he was confronted, federal authorities said, Blackman agreed to cooperate against the two truckers, Marino Maury Diaz Leon, 52, of San Antonio and Fernando Guardado Vazquez, 40, of Pflugerville.

Blackman helped investigators obtain videotaped evidence of some bribes the pair paid Blackman, FBI special agent Monroe Giese testified at a July 8 bail hearing for Vazquez and Diaz.

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Giese testified the pair are legal U.S. residents of Cuban descent who bribed Blackman to issue trucker’s licenses for numerous other people without having the holders come in to a DPS office for required testing.

Officials said 215 CDLs were fraudulently issued between January 2017 and June of this year.

Blackman’s name became public after a federal grand jury indicted him, Vazquez and Diaz this week on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and honest services fraud, conspiracy to produce identification documents without lawful authority, and conspiracy to transfer identification documents created without lawful authority.

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“That employee was interviewed and he admitted to accepting bribes to falsely certify that people had passed their skills assessment test, when in fact they had not passed it or hadn’t even shown up for the test,” Giese testified.

Of the 215 commercial driver’s licenses in question, 197 went to Cuban nationals, 11 to U.S. citizens, one to a Dominican Republic national, one to an Ethiopian national, one to an Iraqi national, one to a Puerto Rican, one to a Ukraine national and two to Mexican nationals, are legal U.S. residents of Cuban descent who offered bribes to the DPS employee, Giese testified.

Giese testified that a DPS audit in December 2018 found that the DPS employee “had an unusual number of CDLs being issued.” An investigation by DPS and the Texas Rangers identified more than 200 license holders who had not been scheduled to take the skill test, which consists of an air brake safety inspection and a road test.

Applicants for CDLs are required to take the skill test in the same class and type of motor vehicle they plan to drive once obtaining the trucking license, according to testimony and information on the DPS website.

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“As the investigation is ongoing, we are still trying to determine the full and exact time frame,” the Texas Department of Public Safety said in an emailed statement responding to a reporter’s questions.

The CDLs in question have been canceled, the statement said.

The agency would not say what DPS office Blackman worked out of, but said he has been employed with the agency since November 2012 and has been suspended. No other DPS employees have been implicated.

“The department has been entrusted with the responsibility of licensing drivers in Texas, including commercial vehicle drivers — and this is a responsibility we take very seriously,” the statement said. “As such, the department works hard to protect that trust and will not tolerate any behavior that may compromise the integrity of the process.”

Blackman, who is not in custody, is scheduled to be in court Aug. 11 to answer his summons.

Vazquez and Diaz were released on personal recognizance bonds this week after U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez rejected the prosecution’s appeal of a federal magistrate’s order that granted them bond. Prosecutors had argued the pair are a flight risk.

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