DMV investigator solves identity theft crimes, earns awards
By DEBORAH A. MILES
Most of us are oblivious to the various behind-the-scenes investigations that occur in communities around the globe, the ones you don’t hear about on national news segments or social media.
One of these quiet investigations caught the attention of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), who selected a PEF member, Todd Dort, as the recipient of both a regional and international Fraud Prevention and Detection Award for a Motor Vehicle Individual.
Dort, a senior investigator at the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for 18 years, cracked an award-winning case that plays out like a script for a TV crime show.
On the Thursday before Labor Day weekend in 2015, a car dealership in East Greenbush faxed a driver’s license to Dort for verification. It did not match the one on file at DMV. Dort went to the dealership to review the paperwork the customers completed to purchase a Range Rover SUV, and to interview the salesman before the potential customers returned to pick up the car.
“I determined they had already committed a number of crimes,” Dort said. “I interviewed them and took them into custody, as they were smack in the middle of committing an identity theft agreement. One of the suspects was an African American in his 50s, impersonating a white male in his 70s. He used a fake driver’s license with the victim’s identity information, but his own photo.”
Dort also searched the two individuals after they were in custody. He found a list with about a dozen names with dates of birth, social security numbers, addresses, occupations, credit card information, passwords, religious affiliations and next of kin. The last two tipped off Dort that the list may have originated from a hospital.
“Usually hospitals only ask for your religious affiliation or next of kin. When I later interviewed the victim, I discovered he had, within the last two months, gone to a local hospital’s emergency room. I interviewed the other people on the list, asking them to confirm the information. They lived around the state from Long Island to Lake Placid, but within a few months time frame, they all were in the Albany area and had gone to the same emergency room.”
Soon after, the man whose identity was stolen to purchase the SUV received a statement from a jewelry store. On the same day the two individuals went to buy the vehicle, they stopped at Crossgates Mall in Albany and purchased $4,000 in jewelry, still using the man’s identity.
Dort stayed on the investigation, obtained the transaction papers from the store and video from the surveillance camera that caught the same two individuals from the car dealership. He also was able to track down and identify the person in the hospital’s admissions department who gave away the confidential information of patients.
“We were able to take the crime that started at the dealership in Rensselaer County to the jewelry store in Albany County. The Albany County District Attorney’s Office and I who worked from start to finish on this case, from arrest to trial. We did all the interviews, acquired all the required documentation, contacted credit card companies, everything. When all was said and done, we made multiple arrests for two separate crime incidents, and were able to stop the other 11 people from being victimized by these individuals.”
As a DMV senior investigator, Dort has the same law enforcement authority as a parole or probation officer with the right to carry a firearm and make arrests. He said the general public is unaware of the specialized investigative units that are unique to state agencies.
Dort said he felt “astonished” when learning about the awards. The regional one was presented May 14, and he will accept the international award at the AAMVA Annual Conference in August.