SAN DIEGO- When California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) investigators suspected that a driver safety officer at a DMV office in San Diego was giving special treatment to DUI offenders in exchange for gifts from the offenders' attorneys, they went to work, uncovering a crime of bribery that put DUI offenders back on the road, when instead, their licenses should have been suspended.
"This was a crime that went on for as many as nine years and truly snubbed DUI enforcement laws, potentially endangering the public by allowing offenders back on the road, when maybe they shouldn't have been," said Kenny Ehrman, Unit A vice president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) and president of the Association of Motor Vehicle Investigators of California (AMVIC). "This investigation was conducted by CSLEA & AMVIC members, investigators at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Most DMV employees are honest, but investigating those who aren't, is one of the many jobs of a DMV Investigator."
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, on February 3, 2015, Alva Benavidez, 51, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to accept bribes. The former driver safety officer admitted to setting aside DUI suspensions and giving unauthorized temporary driver licenses to people who had been arrested for DUI.
The bribery involved at least six attorneys and their staff. In exchange for the favors Benavidez provided, she accepted more than $5,000 in purses, sunglasses, gift cards, checks and cash.
Benavidez no longer works for the DMV, she retired in December after investigators searched her home and office. She is scheduled to be sentenced in April 2015 and faces up to five years in prison.
"DMV employees should take pride in their work and know the importance of their roles in keeping us all safe out on the road," said CSLEA President Alan Barcelona. "This was a blatant disregard for DUI enforcement laws and our thanks to the DMV investigators who put a stop to it."