Investigation reveals criminal backgrounds of BMV employees - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Investigation reveals criminal backgrounds of BMV employees

About the Story

A criminal investigation into the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in 2003 resulted in the arrests of four BMV employees who turned out to have criminal records.  The Eyewitness News Investigators decided to find out how many other BMV workers had questionable backgrounds.  They spent weeks running criminal checks on more than 600 Marion County BMV employees and found it’s not uncommon.  This story aired March 3, 2004.  It was reported by Roger Harvey, produced by Gerry Lanosga, and photographed and edited by Bill Ditton.

Indianapolis, March 3 - For nearly six years, Imelda Oglesby has worked for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.  At the moment, she’s an assistant manager working out of the Michigan Road license branch.

But there's more to Oglesby's story, and as we found out, she would rather you not know about it.

“Oh, I can’t do that,” she said when we tried to talk to her.  “I’m so sorry.”

Since Oglesby was hired, she's been arrested twice on theft charges.  In one case, she agreed to attend a correctional training program after police say she tried to steal clothes from her former employer.

Three months ago, Oglesby raised suspicion at the BMV during an investigation of a fake license scheme involving agency employees.  She was suspended, then reinstated three weeks later.   

The state did fire four other employees – and three of them also had criminal histories.

We wondered:  How many others with criminal records are working at the bureau?  As it turns out, Oglesby is just one of dozens.

We found at least 61 Marion County BMV workers have arrest records – that’s 10 percent of the bureau's employees in the county.  About half of the cases we found in the Marion County court system involved relatively minor charges that likely wouldn't have a bearing on work at the BMV – things like drunken driving and public intoxication, for instance.

But 31 of the cases involved felony crimes or other charges for what the law considers "crimes of dishonesty" – things that would make you think twice about allowing these workers to handle your personal information.  The charges include theft, forgery, criminal conversion and check deception. 

Take Marcy Troutman, for instance.  She was hired at the BMV's Beech Grove license branch last September despite the fact that four years earlier, she pleaded guilty to D felony attempted theft.  A C felony forgery charge was dropped as part of the plea, and her conviction was entered as a misdemeanor at her sentencing.

We wanted to talk to new BMV Commissioner Mary DePrez about what we found, but the bureau instead gave us spokesman Dan Henkel.

“We are unaware of people dealing with the public who should not be,” Henkel said, “and if we get information that they are we will examine it, investigate it and take any appropriate action.”

Henkel said the BMV does conduct background checks on new hires, but doesn't as a rule bar hiring people with criminal records.

But one former employee told Eyewitness News the BMV doesn't scrutinize employees and potential employees well enough.

“They need tighter reins,” said Mary Pacely.  “They need tighter control over who they hire.”

Pacely was fired from her job at the Midtown branch for violating bureau policy in the recent fake license scandal, but she's not been charged criminally.  She said it doesn't make sense to allow convicted criminals to work for the BMV, which handles the sensitive personal documents of nearly every adult in the state of Indiana.

“I'm not saying that everybody that works for the BMVC is crooked, but if you've got that intent… you've got their social (security number), you've got their name, you've got their bank account, their credit card number, the date it expires – everything,” she said.

State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, is a vocal critic of the BMV.  He said he was surprised at our findings.

“It's kind of shocking that we have individuals that we hire that may have problems in their background,” he said.  “It gives credence to the fact that this agency needs a massive overhaul, brick by brick.”

Merritt said the BMV needs a full-fledged independent audit.

“I think you've put your thumb on an important issue,” he said.  “It's imperative we look at it.”

One outsider already has looked at the BMV – Mike Carrington, a former U.S. Marshal brought in by Gov. Joe Kernan in the wake of the fake document arrests.  Here's what he had to say last week when we asked him if BMV should hire people with criminal histories:

“Shouldn't be doing that, and they tell me they don't.  They need to be sure.  If people have slipped through their check, and that's actually been discussed, they need to run a background check on every prospective employee.”

But remember – some of the employees we found, like Marcy Troutman, were hired in spite of their criminal histories.  And others, like Oglesby, were arrested after they were hired.

The BMV, in fact, promoted Oglesby just a week after her first arrest.  Her new job was to be the bookkeeper at the Michigan Road branch.

And we found another employee, Speedway branch team leader Gracie Dumas, who is actually wanted on an open criminal warrant.  The charges?  Driving while suspended – and operating a vehicle with a fake registration number.

That drew an incredulous reaction from Merritt:

“Well, it's imperative that we start this now.”

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