UPDATED 11/15/11 10:02 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Two former road test examiners for the Illinois Secretary of State’s office recorded passing grades on tests in exchange for bribes, prosecutors allege.
The examiners, Christopher Wardlaw, 36, and Alanda Jackson, 31, both of Chicago, are charged with accepting bribes from driver’s license applicants who either did not pass the road or never took it at all, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The charges originated with an investigation in which members and associates of a crime ring were found to be selling fraudulent IDs in Chinatown, prosecutors said. Between 2005 and 2007, Wardlaw and Jackson conspired with members of the crime ring to guarantee that a certain number of customers would get passing grades on then test, prosecutors said.
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Wardlaw and Jackson both worked at the Secretary of State’s Chicago South Facility, 9901 S. King Dr. They allegedly conspired with another former office employee, Timothy Johnson, and several others who were involved in the fake ID – including co-defendants Jun Yun Zhang, Lili Liu, and Tiangsheng Zhang – who were indicted in 2009.
The Zhangs and other defendants would bring applicants to driver’s licensing facilities to obtain fake state IDs or driver’s licenses using counterfeit or altered real Chinese passports, and real Social Security cards that belonged to other people, prosecutors said. The Social Security cards all began with the rare prefix 586, which is reserved for people in the Mariana Islands such as Saipan, Guam and American Samoa.
Wardlaw and Jackson promised passing results on the road test either by administering the test and passing applicants who failed, or just recording passing grades when the applicants never took the test at all.
The period of time when Wardlaw and Jackson were passing applicants for bribes was the same time former Gov. George Ryan was on trial for a similar scheme that operated when he was Secretary of State, in which unqualified truck drivers were given licenses for bribes.
That scheme led to the deadly crash in Wisconsin that killed the six children of the Rev. Duane “Scott” Willis and his wife, Janet.
Ryan is now serving a 6 1/2-year prison sentence.
Former U.S. Attorney Scott Lassar, who started the Ryan probe, says this shows that prosecution alone cannot stop corruption.
“Part of it is his tone at the top, and I mean, there have been very few problems at the Secretary of State’s office for many years other than the Safe Road prosecution.”
Wardlaw was arrested Monday, while Jackson will appear for an arraignment at a later date. Each is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.