Former DMV Officer Took Purses, Cash as Bribes

A former San Diego Department of Motor Vehicles official pleaded guilty Tuesday to accepting bribes, including money, gift certificates and designer handbags, in exchange for helping people accused of DUIs, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Alva Benavidez, 51, a former officer of the California Driver Safety Office at the DMV, admitted to accepting more than $5,000 in cash and gifts from attorneys and their firms in her plea agreement, said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.

At the DMV, Benavidez worked as a driver safety officer (DSO), where she presided over hearings to decide whether a person charged with driving under the influence should have their license suspended.

Benavidez admitted to giving favorable treatment to six different attorneys and six of their staff between 2005 and August 2014. In exchange for helping those clients, she was given checks and cash ranging from $250 to $750, as well as two Juicy Couture purses, Ray-Ban sunglasses and a Cheesecake Factory gift certificate.

In her plea agreement, Benavidez admitted to stealing arrest packets from the DSO before that information could be put into the database. She also set aside driver license suspensions and provided unauthorized temporary driver licenses for people who had previously been arrested for DUIs.

"Obviously, today's guilty plea exposes a troubling breakdown in the enforcement of our DUI laws. The investigation into corruption involving the DMV is continuing, and we will pursue the facts wherever they lead," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Kanter.

Benavidez has been released on bond until her sentencing. She will be sentenced at 9 a.m. on April 20.

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