Three Conspirators Sentenced to Prison in Scheme to Sell Fraudulently Issued Maryland Driver’s Licenses

March 18, 2011

Greenbelt, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, sentenced co-defendants O’Neil Whyte, age 39, of Springfield Garden, New York; Avanti Blackwell, age 26, of Accokeek, Maryland; and Evita Baker, age 25, of Forestville, Maryland, to 30 months, 15 months, and 15 months in prison, respectively, followed by supervised release of three years for Whyte and two years each for Blackwell and Baker, in connection with a scheme to unlawfully produce and transfer Maryland driver’s licenses. Judge Williams sentenced Whyte on March 16, Blackwell on March 17, and Baker today. Judge Williams also entered orders of forfeiture for Whyte, Blackwell and Baker in the amounts of $48,000, $97,250, and $59,500, respectively.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge David Beach of the United States Secret Service – Washington Field Office; U.S. Marshal Johnny Hughes; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; John Kuo, Administrator of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration - Investigation and Security Services Division; and Special Agent in Charge Theresa R. Stoop of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - Baltimore Field Division.

According to the defendants’ guilty pleas, from about June 2007 through June 2008, Whyte, Blackwell, Baker, along with co-defendants Patrick Gordon and Natalie Palmer, participated in a conspiracy to provide unlawfully produced Maryland driver’s licenses to individuals who were willing to pay money to obtain a driver’s license illegally, typically because the applicants were aliens without legal status in the United States or who were otherwise unable to obtain a lawfully issued driver’s license.

As part of this conspiracy, Whyte, Gordon, Palmer and others met with prospective Maryland driver’s license applicants, who paid the conspirators approximately $2,000 for each fraudulently issued Maryland driver’s license. Whyte, Gordon and Palmer gave Blackwell, a former employee of the Largo Branch of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), the information that applicants wished to appear on their Maryland driver’s licenses. Blackwell forwarded this information to Baker, an MVA employee, in advance of Baker’s Saturday shifts at the MVA’s Largo Branch. Baker’s duties at the MVA included the issuance of Maryland driver’s licenses. Whyte, Gordon and Palmer assisted the applicants in traveling to the Largo Branch of the MVA, and directed the applicants to Baker’s workstation, where the applicants obtained Maryland driver’s licenses produced by Baker without lawful authority. Whyte paid Baker and Blackwell approximately $1,000 for each fraudulently issued Maryland driver’s license, to be shared between the two of them. The co-conspirators knew that the licenses were produced without lawful authority. This conspiracy resulted in the production and transfer of more than two dozen fraudulent Maryland driver’s licenses.

During the course of this conspiracy, Whyte also obtained four Maryland driver’s licenses and identification cards from Baker, which bore Whyte’s photograph but were in other names. On August 6, 2008, Whyte signed an application for a United States Passport in the name of Vincent Sherard Barnes, using one of the fraudulently produced Maryland identification cards as proof of his identity. Whyte gave the signed passport application, which contained other false statements, along with fraudulent documentation of his U.S. citizenship, to another person, who then presented that information to the passport clerk, claiming that the information was true.

Patrick Gordon, age 34, and his wife, Natalie Palmer, age 37, both of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme and were sentenced to 37 months and 48 months in prison, respectively.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration - Investigation and Security Services Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys Robert K. Hur, Michael Pauzé and Jonathan Lenzner, who prosecuted the case.

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