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Press Release

Former DMV Official Guilty Of Accepting Bribes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

SAN DIEGO – Alva Benavidez pleaded guilty today in federal court to conspiracy to accept bribes stemming from her employment at the California Driver Safety Office at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen S. Crawford, Benavidez admitted that she accepted more than $5,000 in cash and gifts from attorneys and their law firms in exchange for helping their clients obtain positive results in DMV hearings and unauthorized temporary licenses.

According to court records, Benavidez was an employee of the DMV since August 2000, where she worked as a Driver Safety Officer (“DSO”). As a DSO, Benavidez’s duties included presiding over hearings to determine whether a person charged with Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”) should have their license suspended. As an employee of the DSO, Benavidez had access to files, records and information of the DMV, including temporary licenses. In her plea agreement, Benavidez admitted that between 2005 and August 2014, she entered into an agreement with six different attorneys and six of their staff or representatives (collectively “co-conspirators”) to aid the attorneys in obtaining favorable treatment for clients who were charged with DUIs. In exchange for the favorable treatment for the clients of the co-conspirators, Benavidez accepted goods and services of value, including cash, meals, and luxury items such as designer purses, from the co-conspirators.

Some of the activity Benavidez admitted to in her plea agreement included stealing arrest packets from the DSO before the information about a DUI arrest could be entered into the DSO database, setting aside driver license suspensions, and providing unauthorized temporary driver licenses for people who had been arrested for DUIs. In exchange for her participation in the conspiracy, Defendant accepted gifts and bribes worth over $5,000 total, including cash, gift certificates, sunglasses, purses and other items of value.

Benavidez retired from the DMV in December 2014 after search warrants were executed at her home and office. She has been released on bond pending sentencing. The guilty plea is not final until it has been accepted by the district court. Benavidez is scheduled to be sentenced on April 20, 2015 at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Cynthia A. Bashant.

Anyone with information about corruption at the DMV is asked to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 1-877-NO-BRIBE (662-7423), or the DMV’s Investigations Branch-Office of Internal Affairs at (951) 653-5357.

DEFENDANT   Case Number: 15CR0233-BAS
Alva Garrido Benavidez Age: 51 San Diego, California

Conspiracy to Accept Bribes – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371
Maximum penalty:      20 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine


Federal Bureau of Investigation
Department of Motor Vehicles, Investigations Division, Special Operations Command, Office of Internal Affairs

Updated July 23, 2015