A former Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles clerk was sentenced to serve one year in jail Thursday after pleading guilty to accepting $50 bribes.
In exchange for the bribes, Jamiel A. Hill added false commercial driver’s license endorsements to the existing licenses of five drivers in Prince George County and forged applications for those licenses.
Under terms of a plea agreement, the 30-year-old defendant pleaded guilty in Prince George Circuit Court to five felony counts each of accepting a bribe as a public official, forging a public record and attesting as true a forged public record while serving as a customer service representative at DMV. He worked at the DMV branch office at 4401 Crossings Blvd. in Prince George.
Judge W. Allan Sharrett accepted Hill’s pleas and, pursuant to the agreement, sentenced him to 80 years in prison with 79 years suspended. In exchange for his pleas, prosecutors withdrew 24 other charges involving eight other drivers.
According to a summary of evidence presented in court Thursday, an employee at the Hopewell customer service center for DMV received a call on the office’s fraud line that a DMV clerk was issuing commercial driver’s licenses for $1,500 without requiring the applicants to pass the requisite tests. The tipster provided the name of a customer who directly paid a DMV clerk for a license without taking the test.
DMV investigator Crystal Caldwell began to look into it and confirmed the customer in question did receive a commercial license that was issued by Hill. Caldwell found that DMV’s computer system showed that when a commercial license endorsement was added to the driver’s original license, it was done by waiver — meaning it appeared as though the driver already had a South Carolina commercial license and the driver surrendered that license when the Virginia commercial license was issued.
But the driver never had a South Carolina commercial license, Caldwell found.
At that point, the investigator obtained a list of, and then reviewed, each instance where Hill had waived the required commercial license test for an applicant. She uncovered 13 cases, but for purposes of Thursday’s plea agreement, the five cases to which Hill pleaded guilty were summarized in court.
Those drivers were issued commercial license endorsements on Nov. 21, 2017; Jan. 16, 2018 (two); Feb. 12, 2018; and March 8, 2018. In each case, a falsified DMV application for the commercial license was filled out by both Hill and the driver, signed by both, and passed from the driver to Hill, according to evidence.
In each case, the driver was assisted by Hill as a “direct admit,” which means Hill called or otherwise had the driver come to his window, thereby bypassing the DMV information desk, where customers are assigned a number for assistance upon arriving.
All the transactions were videotaped, and the footage shows Hill completing and passing the DMV applications to the drivers.
Caldwell then obtained screenshots from each of the transactions to determine the details of the commercial licenses Hill issued. With that information, Caldwell was able to obtain notices from various states that they had no record of those drivers previously obtaining commercial licenses, which Hill certified they had obtained to issue them Virginia commercial licenses.
Hill admitted in a March 29, 2018, interview with Caldwell that he was issuing the falsified commercial licenses in exchange for $50. Prosecutors noted that the fraudulently issued commercial licenses have since been revoked, and there is no record that any of those who received the falsified endorsements were employed as a commercial driver in Virginia or elsewhere.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Susan Fierro said the investigation is ongoing. For that reason, she declined to say how the drivers involved in the scheme had made arrangements with Hill to obtain falsified licenses.
Hill was a full-time DMV employee from Feb. 25, 2015, to March 30, 2018, an agency spokeswoman said.