Brooklyn CDL School Scam Leads to Manslaughter and Many More Dangerous Driversby Jana Ritter - Published: 4/12/2013
The feds are warning that hundreds of drivers who obtained commercial driver's licenses from a Brooklyn school that helped students cheat, have not been re-tested and are a potential hazard to public safety. The drivers had passed the commercial license test with the help of the school's owner Philip Ng, who fed them the correct answers — but only 93 of 375 of them have actually passed the retest, court papers show. The rest either failed the re-test, gave up their license or failed to appear.
(Ng) deprived the DMV of the ability to discern whether or not a cheating commercial driver's license applicant had the requisite knowledge of how to maintain and operate a commercial vehicle ... creating a real threat to the public," Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Tuchman wrote. Before taking the written exam, Ng gave the applicants a jacket equipped with a mini-camera in the sleeve. The applicant beamed each question to a video monitor inside Ng's van parked outside the DMV office. Ng would beep the applicant twice if the correct answer was A, four times for B and six for C.
The decade-long scam operated by the couple, came with a money-back guarantee for anyone shelling out $1,800 for the right answers to a written state driving test, prosecutors said. The test — applicants had to score 80% to pass — covered topics like passenger safety, air brakes and general knowledge, court records show. The court papers also reveal that the investigation found potentially “hundreds of drivers” who couldn't read or speak English were issued commercial licenses by the state of New York.
Ng and his wife pleaded guilty last year and are scheduled to be sentenced Thursday. They face up to 27 months in prison and have agreed to close the driving school in the tainted test scandal. Referring to a Chinatown-bound bus that crashed and killed four people in Virginia last year and the driver being linked to their school, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Tuchmann said in court papers that “the defendants' conduct appears to have had deadly consequences.” But their defense lawyer Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma said the feds are exaggerating the risk to public safety. “I'm not aware of any evidence that the driver involved in the Virginia accident cheated on his test in any way,” he said
U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said the couple showed a wanton disregard for life and limb. They sent dangerous drivers onto the streets — some behind the wheels of 12-ton buses carrying dozens of people. “The defendants put the public — passengers, pedestrians and drivers alike — at grave risk to line their own pockets,” Lynch said.
Federal investigators are continuing to hunt for cheating test-takers, with the intention of pulling the illegally licensed drivers off the road.