DMV employees in El Cajon and Rancho San Diego are accused of taking bribes of up to $3,000 in exchange for forged driver's licenses, a U.S. District Attorney announced Wednesday.
Hundreds of people in San Diego and Los Angeles counties obtained the licenses through recruiters who worked with five DMV employees over the past two years, according to the complaint issued by US Attorney Laura Duffy.
FBI Agents arrested 17 of the 21 defendants charged on the complaint Wednesday morning. Two remain at large, Duffy said.
Employees within the DMV first brought their suspicions to the US Attorney's office about two years ago. The office worked with the FBI to investigate the possible corruption.
Using a mix of wire taps and undercover operations, investigators found that four recruiters were soliciting people who wanted drivers licenses but could not obtain them.
The recruiters texted the applicants' information to the five DMV employees, who entered false passing scores on both written and driving tests.
Applicants paid between $2,500 and $3,000 for the Class A and C licenses. The bribes were split between the DMV employees and the recruiters -- one of whom said he "needed the cash."
The DMV and FBI are now attempting to find all the recipients of the forged licenses, some of which include drivers of trucks, tractors and buses. The agencies have identified about 100 drivers who may be in posession of the licenses.
The complaint lists 21 defendants charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and produce unauthorized identification documents. Several of the defendents will appear in court Thursday.
FBI agents were spotted at the El Cajon California Department of Motor Vehicle early Wednesday in what one witness described as a raid.
The witness said he saw FBI agents escorting several people from the building.
He believes they were DMV employees but when NBCSanDiego contacted the FBI, the agency would not confirm details about the incident.