Fayette County driver's license center employee accused in cash-for-license scheme

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A Fayette County driver's license center employee was arraigned Thursday on 16 counts of bribery after Pennsylvania State Police said he approved drivers on road skills tests in exchange for cash.

Marvin Mills, 56, of Vanderbilt, is accused of accepting hundreds of dollars in bribes from foreign applicants, some of whom traveled from Pittsburgh and as far as Erie to test at the Uniontown Driver's License Center.

Mr. Mills is also charged with tampering with public records. According to PennDOT, he is no longer employed at the center.

State police in the Bureau of Criminal Investigation's Organized Crime Unit said in a criminal complaint that Mr. Mills went "to great lengths" to ensure he administered the tests to foreign applicants, many of which arrived in groups and were originally from Bhutan, a county in south Asia bordering China and India.

PennDOT officials determined Mr. Mills had last failed a Bhutanese applicant Feb. 26, 2011, passing 218 Bhutanese applicants after that until August 2013, state police said.

Between June 2009 and August of this year, the complaint continued, Mr. Mills had tested 346 Bhutanese applicants and failed seven.

He could not be reached for comment but told investigators that he did give improper road tests on several occasions but "denied accepting any monies or benefits of any kind in exchange for passing these foreign individuals or anyone else," state police wrote.

Three Bhutanese drivers told investigators and Immigrant and Customs Enforcement agents that they made cash payments to Mr. Mills at the time of their tests.

One man told investigators Mr. Mills told him, "You give me money, I give you license" and, in the center's parking lot, he paid Mr. Mills $400 in cash, according to the complaint.

Another man, also Bhutanese, told investigators he took cash payments from 15 to 20 Bhutanese applicants, then went with them to the center. That man, who has not been charged, said he'd meet with Mr. Mills in the parking lot, pay him the cash -- which he called "tips" -- and Mr. Mills would test the applicants and tell them they'd passed, state police said.

Twelve applicants interviewed by authorities said they paid that man amounts ranging from $100 to $700 and he would go with them to the center. They also said the man would meet with Mr. Mills and the drivers would pass their exams.

Troopers conducting surveillance of the road tests observed Mr. Mills instruct an applicant to the park in a lot next door and drive right back to the center. Minutes later, state police said, he passed that person and issued a license.

Investigators also interviewed 28 Bhutanese drivers who said they paid various amounts of cash to a man named John Ford, who would take them to Uniontown for their tests. He has since died.

Mr. Mills told investigators that Mr. Ford had brought foreign applicants to the Uniontown center for tests several years ago.

State police said PennDOT sent out retest notices to the 339 Bhutanese drivers who had tested and passed with Mr. Mills as their examiner; 218 failed and their licenses were recalled, and 32 failed to show up. Their licenses were revoked.

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.

First Published December 12, 2013 11:45 AM

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