Philadelphia News & Search
For foreign nationals seeking a less-than-legal way to establish identity in Philadelphia, no obstacle was too great to stop PennDOT employee Henry Gibbs from issuing a driver’s license, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
No proof of residency? No problem. Forged or stolen identity documents? Not an issue. Never took the required driver’s test? No sweat.
As long as you came with the right amount of cash.
An indictment unsealed this week pulled back the curtain on an alleged arrangement between Gibbs, a Philadelphia-based driver’s license examiner, and a shadowy middleman who paid him nearly $14,000 between April 2014 and May 2015 to unleash more than 30 untested and undocumented drivers on the roadways.
For anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 apiece, Gibbs’ co-defendant Bakary Camara, 30, of Philadelphia by way of Mali, allegedly would help clients through the process for obtaining unearned commercial or non-commercial licenses.
Gibbs, 54, of Yeadon, was released on bond Tuesday after an initial court appearance. His lawyer, Margaret M. Grasso, declined to discuss the case. She said that her client no longer works for PennDOT, although she added that she did not know the details surrounding his departure.
But the picture painted by prosecutors in their 28-page charging document is of a clear quid pro quo.
Camara often met his clients in the parking lot of the PennDOT driver’s license center at 2320 Island Ave., in Eastwick, where Gibbs was assigned to work.
Camara allegedly accepted the cash before passing it along to Gibbs with documents ranging from falsified insurance records to forged telephone bills and tax letters with stolen Social Security numbers to prove his clients’ identities.
Although he knew the documents to be fakes, Gibbs entered them all into state databases and often filled out driving test forms for Camara’s clients himself, according to the indictment. In some cases, prosecutors said, he simply copied the results from other drivers’ tests.
Few details were available Wednesday on how investigators uncovered the purported scheme or about the dozens who paid to illicitly obtain a license. All were referred to in the indictment solely by their initials.
Camara remained in federal custody pending a detention hearing set for Friday. It was not immediately clear whether he had retained a lawyer.
Gibbs and Camara each face federal charges of bribery and conspiracy – crimes carrying potential sentences of up to 15 years.
In addition, Gibbs faces additional charges of lying to investigators about the purported payoffs, and Camara is charged with aggravated identity theft.
PennDOT officials did not immediately return requests for comment.
Philadelphia News & Search