Crime

Owner of Modesto trucking school sentenced in DMV fraud case

This August 2015 photo is of Mid-California Truck School on Mariposa Road in Modesto.
This August 2015 photo is of Mid-California Truck School on Mariposa Road in Modesto. Modesto Bee file

The owner of a Modesto truck-driving school has been sentenced to 19 months in prison after pleading guilty to his role in a DMV bribery and identity fraud scheme, the Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento reported Friday.

Turlock resident Kulwinder Dosanjh “Sodhi” Singh, 61, and former California Department of Motor Vehicles employee Emma Klem, 48, of Salinas, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and identity fraud, according to a news release. They conspired to obtain commercial driver’s licenses for individuals who had not taken or passed the necessary DMV examinations in return for monetary payments, and to produce identification documents without lawful authority.

Singh’s plea was more than three years ago. He told The Modesto Bee in August of 2015 that his role extended no further than one incident. “I’m sorry. ... I shouldn’t have done it, it ruined my life,” the owner of Mid-California Truck School said at the time, referring to his role in helping a driver illegally obtain a commercial trucking license in 2013.

But the DOJ news release indicates broader involvement. It says Singh “acted as a broker to assist individuals in obtaining Class A, Class B, and Class C licenses.”

His case is one in a series of prosecutions. The news release says that in 2011, the FBI began an investigation into a pattern involving the fraudulent issuance of commercial driver’s licenses to people who had not taken or passed the written or behind-the-wheel driving examinations.

If found that in many cases, DMV employees would issue the licenses or permits in exchange for money. Separate from the FBI effort, Homeland Security Investigations began a probe in 2012 involving individuals engaged in similar practices in the Stockton area. The DMV began a 2012 investigation involving individuals in the Salinas area engaged in the same fraudulent activity.

A total of 26 people have been charged federally in the investigations, the news release said. Eleven of the defendants were DMV employees, while the rest were driving school owners or brokers.

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