Investigation leaves driver's ed students shortchanged

Published: .
Updated: .

INDIANAPOLIS - Parents who have spent hundreds of dollars on driver's ed classes now learn they won't get all they paid for.

The BMV has suspended a portion of the waiver program for A-Auto Driving School after investigators discovered the company selling permits to immigrants in a parking lot.

13 Investigates reporter Sandra Chapman caught up with the owner to press for answers.

"I started stealing my Dad's car at 12 years old. I just learned on my own," confessed Jesse James outside of the Madison Avenue BMV, when asked how he got his license.

But James is the first to admit cutting corners is not the answer for good driver training. He eventually got his driver's license like DeAnn Edwards did Tuesday afternoon. She studied the driver's manual and passed a drivers test.

"It's not that hard. Read the book. Common sense," she said, after getting her picture taken for her new license.

But 13 Investigates has learned a local driving school is now accused of fraud.

The BMV says A-Auto Driving School was collecting money from customers in the parking lot of the Madison Avenue BMV branch. Many of the buyers were immigrants who exchanged cash for waivers to get driver permits on the spot.

"I think that's absurd. You don't even know how to drive," said Jesse James.

"Since I waited, I feel everybody else should wait. I waited my six months," added Edwards.

In a letter, the BMV says A-Auto was selling to "up to 30 customers a day," and violated six different statutes, including:

- Inaccurately dating the "start of class" date for driver's ed,

- Issuing permits to refugees without conducting a class, and enrolling students outside of its commercial school, on BMV property and without contracts.

"Class time; putting an artificial date, start date on a class, I mean, those kinds of errors or fraudulent statements of activity just can't be tolerated," said BMV Spokesman Dennis Rosebrough.

The BMV suspended the company's waiver program until December.

That means A-Auto students with waivers to skip a driving skills test at the BMV for a permanent license will no longer have that option.

They too will have to get behind the wheel with a BMV instructor and take the test like DeAnn Edwards did.

Parents who paid A-Auto $399 for traditional classes are outraged their students who followed the rules aren't getting what they paid for.

13 Investigates caught up with the company's owner outside of his office.

"You're still taking the money with people thinking, parents believing they're coming here and this is what they're going to get?" asked Eyewitness News.

"We were told on Thursday that they were simply not going to accept the drive test," responded owner Gary Baxter.

Baxter tells 13 Investigates he's done this for years. He says some of his students were turned away for permits and should not have been.

The BMV says he's right. It is not suspending the driver permits, even after its own investigation revealed the permits had inaccurate start dates, and were issued to refugees who might not speak English.

"They say this is an investigation of fraud," said Chapman.

"I know that's what they said we were doing," Baxter shot back, "But we're doing exactly what we were told to do. And it's not fraud. We're doing the best job we can," he said defending his company.

The BMV says those drivers who got on-the-spot permits will be required to take both a written test and a drivers test if they come back for a permanent license.

Baxter says he is requesting a hearing next month in hopes of clearing up what he calls a big misunderstanding.