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Posts Tagged ‘DMV’

One Mitzvah Leads To Another

Friday, April 17th, 2009

I have written in the past about my visits to the Israeli Misrad Harishui (Israel’s DMV) in the 1970′s and 1980′s. At that time, I served as a Senior Administrative Law Judge in the American DMV Traffic Courts, Vice-Chair of DMV’s Appeals Boards, and Director of DMV Downstate Field Operations.

When I visited Israel, I was hosted by the director of driver licensing and vehicle registration in the Ministry of Transport. The Israeli authorities and I often discussed measures that could be taken to reduce the number of traffic accidents in Israel, as many more Israelis die in traffic accidents than are killed by terrorists. We also talked about “housekeeping” issues, such as minimizing waiting times in our offices.

On one trip, the director took me on a tour of the back office computer operation in the Israel DMV’s main office in Holon. At that time, I prevented a former New Yorker from fraudulently obtaining a driver’s license to operate a motorcycle, based on a non-existent New York State motorcycle license. A few days later, he took me to visit the Jerusalem DMV District Office in Talpiot.

In Talpiot, we met with the district director in charge of the office, took a tour, and discussed the problems of DMV offices, both in Israel and in New York. As we were leaving, the district director said to me, “If you ever need help, feel free to call on me.”

My wife and I spent the following Shabbat in Efrat with our widowed sister-in-law. Over the course of the Shabbat, I told her of my Israeli DMV experiences, including the district director’s parting remark.

Our sister-in-law’s car registration was still in her late husband’s name. She needed to transfer the registration to her own name. Efrat residents are required to transact their DMV business in the Jerusalem office.

She went to the office to get the transaction done. Predictably, the clerk told her that she was missing a necessary document. Back to Efrat she went to get the needed paper.

On her fourth trip to the Talpiot office, the clerk once again turned her down. This time, remembering what I had told her about my visit to that office a month or so earlier, she asked to see the district director.

He looked at her papers and reiterated what the clerk had said – that she still needed more documentation to get the registration transferred.

At this point, throwing caution to the winds, my sister-in-law said, “Sir, about a month ago, my brother-in-law, the Director of Downstate Field Operations for the New York State DMV was hosted here by your director. You told him if he ever needed help, he should just ask. Do I need to have him call you from America to ask you to help me?”

“No, of course not. Let me look at these papers again.”

After a short re-examination of my sister-in-law’s documents, he called over the clerk and told him to process the application to transfer the registration.

My “good deed” in stopping fraud in Holon was repaid.

The Earthly Court vs. The Heavenly Court

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

I served in the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for many years as an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Senior ALJ, Vice Chairman of the Appeals Board and, finally, TVB Director.

The TVB was established in 1970, when I started with DMV, to serve as NYC’s traffic courts, in place of the Criminal Court. We had growing pains in the early days as we replaced a paper system with a computerized operation. During the early years, when the local offices were not “online” with the central DMV computer files in Albany, all TVB judgments were recorded on computer tapes and the central files were updated weekly.

There were a few occasions when a day’s New York City computer entries were not entered on the central files. So, dispositions – guilty and not guilty – did not update the license files. This resulted in computer-generated suspensions of motorists’ licenses for failing to answer their traffic tickets. TVB kept paper dockets in the local offices, by date, in chronological order.

One of the “lost” days was September 29, 1971.

In early 1973, when I was the Senior ALJ in Brooklyn TVB, a motorist came in with his wife. Tzion Levi (not his real name) explained in Hebrew-accented English that he had been stopped for a traffic violation and was arrested because DMV records showed his license had been suspended at the end of October 1971, for failure to answer a summons.

After he was brought to the police precinct he was given an appearance ticket and told to go to DMV and clear up the suspension on his record before appearing in the Criminal Court on the “driving while license suspended” charge.

From his name, accent, and the fact that they were conversing in Hebrew, I deduced that they were Israelis from Edot HaMizrach (Sephardim) living in New York City.

Mr. Levi insisted that he had answered the ticket in the fall of 1971. I told him that there had been a few days’ entries at that time that had not updated DMV records. I brought out the big handwritten docket books and told him to look for his name and to tell me when he found it.

Sure enough, within a few minutes, he called out to me. I looked at the docket for September 29, 1971; a day I knew was one of those that had not been updated. The docket showed that his traffic ticket for failing to display his license had in fact been dismissed.

After I prepared all the documents to clear his record and gave him whatever he would need in the Criminal Court case against him, I said,

“Mr. Levi, that is one of the days I told you about. You had very few entries to look at because that day was the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, on which we had no trials scheduled, and only a few people came in to answer tickets at all.”

When Mrs. Levi heard that, she began berating her husband: “You went to court on Yom Kippur instead of Bet Knesset!” she yelled. “That’s why they lost the records and you had all these problems,” she screamed at him.

Mr. Levi looked at his wife sheepishly and vowed that in the future, on the holidays, he would go to shul.

The Treif Bribe

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

(This story is true. All names have been changed to protect the people’s privacy.)

It was in the late 1980s. Retired FBI agent Tim McCarthy, Inspector General for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, took the call in his office from Kevin Green, the head of the FBI-NYPD Inter-Agency Task Force investigating official corruption in New York State and City government.

“Tim, can you come down to the city ASAP?” Special Agent Green asked. “It’s something I can’t discuss on the phone.”

“Sure,” replied Tim. “I’ll see you tomorrow at the FBI office a half-hour after the train comes in from Albany.”

The next morning McCarthy and Green met in Green’s office in Manhattan.

“NYPD arrested Jose Rodriguez, a lowlife who was getting phony licenses and registrations in Brooklyn,” Green told McCarthy. “Rodriguez wants to cop a plea with no jail time. He told the cops that he could give them a ‘big guy’ at DMV, so they brought him to us.”

“Who’s he selling out?” asked McCarthy.

“Someone really big – the top civil servant in DMV in the City, the Director of Downstate Field Operations, a guy named Sam Goldberg, who he says is on the take.”

Green proceeded to tell McCarthy the whole story.

“Rodriguez runs an unlicensed private service bureau. For a fee, he brings people’s applications to DMV offices and waits in the lines. But he also deals in phony registrations for stolen or salvage cars and licenses for people who can’t get them legitimately. He collects a thousand dollars for each phony registration or license he gets. He has clerks in Brooklyn who take his paper – the fake birth certificates, phony passports, forged bills of sale, etc. – and issue good documents. They get about a hundred for each registration or license. To make sure he has no problems, he got hold of Goldberg and pays him off to look the other way and not investigate any of the ”ad paper’ he passes off on the clerks.”

“We’ve decided we’re going to pick up Goldberg and sweat him. Rodriguez gave us a lot of details and it sounds good,” Green said to McCarthy. “We want you there because you know Goldberg and can help us put pressure on him to make admissions.”

“Yes, I know Goldberg – very well, and that’s why I don’t believe this bull – story about him. He’s a religious man. He really believes that stuff in the Bible about honesty. He would never take a bribe,” McCarthy insisted.

“Well, Rodriguez told us exactly how he passes the money to Goldberg. With so many details, we have to believe him. He says he calls Goldberg around noon from the pay phones in the lobby of 80 Centre Street, where Goldberg’s office is. He gets Goldberg on the phone, using an alias they previously agreed on, doesn’t say anything, and hangs up. That’s the signal for Goldberg to come down. Rodriguez buys a hot dog from the corner hot dog stand, slips five folded 100-dollar bills between the hot dog and the napkin. Goldberg comes out of the building, goes to the hot dog stand, and Rodriguez unobtrusively gives him the hot dog with the money. Goldberg starts eating the hot dog and walks back into the building and goes to his office.”

At this, McCarthy started to laugh out loud. “You don’t know Sam Goldberg at all,” he said. “He’s 100% kosher – both figuratively and literally. He’s so honest he would never take a bribe nor would he even touch a hot dog from that hot dog stand. They’re not kosher. He doesn’t even eat just any kosher – it has to be glatt kosher. When he comes to Albany, he brings all his food with him. When we meet here in the city, all of us in DMV know this so we let him pick the restaurant for lunch.”

“You won’t sweat Sam Goldberg on this kind of bull—-. Not while I’m around,” McCarthy said.

“Pull Rodriguez in,” McCarthy insisted, tell him to make a payoff to Goldberg with marked money. You offer him complete immunity if Goldberg takes the money as Rodriguez says he does. I personally guarantee it won’t happen.”

After a lot of urging by McCarthy, Green finally agreed to the sting operation. Needless to say, Rodriguez couldn’t deliver. There was no way he could arrange for Sam Goldberg – who he hated because Goldberg actually had barred him from the Brooklyn DMV office for his illegal activities – to meet him and accept anything from him.

Years later, at my retirement party, Tim McCarthy told me this story. I had been at the press conference at which Rodriguez’s arrest was announced. Sam Goldberg was singled out for his cooperation with the investigation. Jose Rodriguez got no immunity – he pleaded guilty and went to jail as did a number of DMV clerks and others involved in the scam.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/the-treif-bribe/2005/05/11/

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