At a packed press conference in Newark, New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow announced indictments charging 40 people with participating in criminal rings that illegally sold New Jersey digital driver's licenses to unauthorized persons.

The alleged acts took place at five motor vehicle agencies in Lodi, East Orange, Edison, Jersey City and North Bergen.

Among the defendants were six former Motor Vehicle Commission clerks, 21 customers, and 13 brokers and other intermediaries.

According to state officials, the defendants conspired in schemes in which brokers and MVC clerks sold licenses to customers who were in the United States illegally or did not have the required six points of identification.

"We're talking about a combination of criminal profiteering and public corruption that I think is truly alarming, and that we need to stay on top of," said Dow.

The customers allegedly paid between $2,500 and $7,000 for a license or renewal; the MVC clerks and brokers split the sales' proceeds.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, New Jersey strengthened its security features for driver's license by introducing the generation of the digital format. The new licenses contained 25 additional security features. Also, the state began requiring the six points of identification.

"However, the human element continues to remain an important part of the identification purchasing process," explained Dow.

She said for that reason, there remains a potential for abuse.

Dow continued, "We have to stay vigilant. We have to have a zero tolerance on fraudulent driver's licenses and motor vehicle commission persons who are corrupt in the system."

According to Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor, the Division of Criminal Justice obtained six state grand jury indictments charging all defendants with conspiracy, official misconduct and computer criminal activity, all in the second degree, and third-degree tampering with public records or information. Many defendants were also charged with second-degree bribery.

The MVC clerks charged include: Anne Marie Manfredonia, 43, Little Ferry, Laquanda Murray, 28, Newark, Rashaan A. Smith, 31, Irvington, Sonia Noel, 48, Union City, Melody Noel, 26, Union City, Cristian J. Toledo, 33, North Bergen.

It was announced the MVC will soon begin the first phase of their Facial Recognition program. The program would use biometric technology to detect licenses that have been obtained with fraudulent identities.

Video by Dino Flammia