Office of Statewide Prosecution

FINAL REPORT OF THE SIXTEENTH STATEWIDE GRAND JURY

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Case No: SC 01-1095
November 12, 2002
(This document has been reformatted for the Internet)

I. INTRODUCTION

The Sixteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida was impaneled on July 17, 2001, and was seated in the Ninth Judicial Circuit: Orange County. The panel was drawn from around the State. The Grand Jury met on sixteen occasions to investigate allegations of multi-circuit, organized criminal activity. The Grand Jury's original term expired after twelve months, but was extended to December 17, 2002. The Grand Jury is adjourning early, subject to recall, if necessary.

The purpose of this report is to record for posterity the work of this Grand Jury, with the hope that its collective voice will be heard and that the citizens of this State will benefit from its efforts.

II. INVESTIGATIONS

Since July of 2001 we have received testimony regarding investigations into driver license fraud, identity theft, and a first degree murder. As a result, we issued 19 indictments charging 89 defendants with a total of 906 counts. The indictments allege the following criminal offenses: Racketeering; Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering; Organized Fraud; Grand Theft; Money Laundering; Criminal Use of Personal Identifying Information; Criminal Possession of a Scanning Device; Offense Against Intellectual Property; Forgery; Insurance Fraud; Driver License Fraud; and First Degree Murder.

III. REPORTS AND PRESENTMENTS

We issued two reports during our term:

(1) Identity Theft in Florida: First Interim Report
(2) Identity Theft in Florida: Second Interim Report

Our First Interim Report was released in January of this year. That report focused on the Identity theft, but more narrowly on the source of the personal identifying information used by the identity thief and the security of the Florida Driver License.

Numerous recommendations were directed to the 2002 Legislature. We are gratified that the Legislature implemented most of our recommendations for reform.

In November of this year we issued our second report which detailed the nature and extent of the fraud committed by identity thieves once they are in possession of the personal identifying information of another. The Second Interim Report also contains various recommendations including legislative proposals. We have asked our legal advisers to present our proposals to the 2003 Legislature, the Executive branch, and industry representatives. We hope our findings and recommendations on these topics will result in positive benefits for the State.

IV. FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS

We are extremely gratified by the tremendous progress being made in the area of driver license security and integrity. A driver license that easily and reliably identifies its holder has been singled out as the most important deterrent to ID theft and all the problems it causes. Since our first report, we have learned that a great many of our recommendations related to the driver license issuance process are being adopted. The efforts to verify and cross-reference documentation presented by applicants, the move toward increased sharing of information, real-time, both across the state and eventually across the nation, and the introduction of a more secure physical driver license card will go a long way to make the Florida driver license the trusted form of identification that it needs to be.

There are a few areas that unfortunately continue to be stumbling blocks to reaching the goals we so desperately must achieve. These include: the purging of the "old style" driver license cards from circulation; the source of funding for the new driver license; the increased presence of law enforcement in and around driver license offices; and the tightening of regulations regarding commercial driving schools.

Enhanced Security Driver License Cards
We have received information on the new high security driver license proposed for Florida and are very pleased with the speed that the recommendations from our first report are being turned into reality. Unfortunately, the integrity of the Florida driver license is only as good as the integrity of the oldest license still in circulation. As long as institutions must accept the old style driver license as identification, the old style license will be the target of choice of the driver license counterfeiter, and the fraudulent licenses obtained prior to the stricter applicant screening processes being implemented will still be out there. Therefore we strongly recommend that steps be taken to minimize the time it takes for the old style driver licenses to be purged from circulation. We have been told that this process is currently planned to take six years from the time the new license is introduced. We feel this is an excessively long time. Every effort must be made to transition the entire population of Florida drivers to the enhanced license in as short a time as possible regardless of any previous expiration dates or renewal policies, or the positive impact of the significant strides we are making will be greatly minimized.

Cost of the Enhanced Drivers License
We have heard repeatedly that the increased cost of the improved driver license card might prove to be a significant barrier to moving forward with this initiative. We continue to be baffled by this. The state currently charges a very nominal fee for the Florida driver license; it ranks among the lowest in the nation. We believe the public will appreciate the extra security afforded by a fraud proof driver license and will be willing to pay a modest increase for the peace of mind it offers in the areas of financial transactions and national security. If the policy makers disagree, we recommend exploring additional sources of revenue, perhaps even contributions from the affected financial industries or from federal funds.

Increased Law Enforcement Presence
We have heard testimony that many forms of illegal activity take place outside certain DL offices that aids individuals in obtaining fraudulent drivers licenses. Recently, we heard testimony that the mere presence of law enforcement in driver license offices and surrounding parking lots has had an immediate and noticeable deterrent effect on the questionable activity taking place in those areas. We strongly recommend that the presence of law enforcement personnel be increased in and around driver license offices either through more frequent patrolling or, in the case of high crime areas, the stationing of an officer on the premises during operating hours.

Regulation of Commercial Driving Schools
In our first report, we identified the complete lack of regulation regarding the operation of commercial driving schools as a significant weakness in the overall integrity of the DL system. We heard repeated testimony that some of these schools facilitate the fraudulent acquisition of drivers licenses by providing fraudulent documentation for a price. Aside from requiring such schools to obtain a license, there is currently no state legislation that regulates their activity or provides for state inspections. We heard recently that there has been little progress made in this area since our last report was published and consequently wish to reiterate our recommendation that a statute be enacted to regulate these enterprises that have the potential to put the integrity of the Florida driver license at risk. This statute should provide for state regulation, supervision, inspection, and penalties for non-compliance.

V. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

While the work which we were asked to perform has been difficult, the issues complex, and the schedule exhausting at times, we have enjoyed our service and are proud of our contributions to the State of Florida.

We wish to thank Governor Bush for calling this Grand Jury into existence. We are also grateful to the following government officials and their respective offices for assisting us in the performance of our responsibilities:

The Honorable Bob Butterworth, former Attorney General
The Honorable Richard E. Doran, Attorney General
Commissioner Tim Moore, Florida Department of Law Enforcement
Fred Dickinson, Director, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
State Courts Administrator Robin L. Lubitz
The Honorable Belvin Perry, Jr., Presiding Judge
The Honorable Alice Blackwell White, Alternate Presiding Judge
The Honorable Lydia Gardner, Clerk of the Circuit Court for the Ninth Judicial Circuit
The Honorable Kevin Beary, Orange County Sheriff
Orange County Court Administrator Matthew Benefiel

Respectfully submitted to the Honorable Belvin Perry, Jr., Presiding Judge, this 12th day of November, 2002.

________________________________
KEVIN MORRIS
Foreperson
Sixteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida

I, MELANIE ANN HINES, Legal Adviser, Sixteenth Statewide Grand Jury for the State of Florida, hereby certify that I, as authorized and required by law, have advised the Grand Jury which returned this Final Report this 12th day of November, 2002.

__________________________________
MELANIE ANN HINES
Statewide Prosecutor
Statewide Grand Jury Legal Adviser
Sixteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida

I, THOMAS A. SADAKA, Special Counsel and Assistant Legal Adviser, Sixteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida, hereby certify that I, as authorized and required by law, have advised the Grand Jury which returned this report on this 12th day of November, 2003.

_______________________________
THOMAS A. SADAKA
Special Counsel
Assistant Legal Adviser
Sixteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida

THE FOREGOING Final Report was returned before me in open court, this 12th day of November, 2002.

__________________________________
HONORABLE BELVIN PERRY, JR
Presiding Judge
Sixteenth Statewide Grand Jury of Florida