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What happens if you’re in a truck accident by a driver with a fake CDL?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted July 15th, 2015

Scammers busted in Florida for helping 600 Russians get fraudulent CDLs

Russian CDL scam

Larex, Inc. helped Russian truck drivers falsify residences and pass written and skills tests for commercial driver licenses. So more than 600 Russians that likely would have failed got their trucking licenses.

But what happens when one of these drivers causes a truck wreck?

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Some might remember the Illinois Secretary of State scam as well.

Our own attorneys have seen firsthand trucking companies putting drivers on the road who should not be there in the first place. Truck Roundtable founding attorney Steven Gursten has taken many depositions of drivers and safety directors in Toronto, Quebec and Montreal. These drivers caused truck accidents in Michigan and surrounding states and could not read or speak English – another important safety violation under the FMCSRs.

But this latest news is shocking because of its scope. The latest scam involves more than 600 invalid commercial drivers licenses (CDLs) being issued in Florida — to Russian-speaking truck drivers.

Accident attorneys must take note if they’re litigating a crash involving a Russian driver, especially one with a Florida CDL license.

Here’s what happened, according to a recent story on truckinginfo.com, “Authorities Bust Russian CDL Scammers”:

Three Florida residents were charged with conspiracy to aid and abet the unlawful production of commercial driver licenses. Ellariy Medvednik, Natalia Dontsova, Adrian Salari, and Clarence Davis were affiliated Larex, Inc., a commercial trucking school that marketed itself to Russian-speakers online. For $2,000, out of state individuals would contact Medvednik to arrange for Larex’s services.

They would then travel to Florida to obtain the CDL. Keep in mind, to obtain a Florida CDL, a truck driver must first have a Florida driver’s license.

After falsifying each individual’s residency by claiming the individuals lived with them, Larex then used covert communication equipment to provide students with answers to the written portion of the CDL test. And for the vehicle inspection tests, basic control skills tests and road tests, Larex hired Davis, a third-party tester authorized by the state of Florida, to administer the tests. Davis then passed drivers who would have otherwise failed.

The story has several levels of fraud:

  1. First, issuing CDLs to people who do not speak or read English, which is a violation of state and federal regulations that require drivers to read traffic signs to protect the public.
  2. Second, passing these drivers on the written test that they otherwise would have failed, meaning they have little or no knowledge whatsoever of the driving laws in the U.S.
  3. Third, passing these drivers on road and inspection tests that they otherwise would have likely failed. That last part means these drivers may be driving tractor trailers on our roads without knowing how to safely operate and inspect a commercial truck.

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Trucking attorneys take note

But what about the truckers that are already out there driving on the roads? And what about the drivers who have likewise received CDLs around the country, albeit perhaps not by such brazen means?

These truckers are still behind the wheel. And they’re still putting innocent drivers and their families in danger with each mile they travel.  Attorneys need to be especially aware and engage in meaningful legal discovery into driver training, qualifications. They  must also look carefully at driver personnel files.

This also brings me to truck accidents and the English proficiency requirement, because attorneys miss this all over the country.

English proficiency requirement to drive a truck in the U.S.

Here’s the FMCSA English proficiency requirement for commercial truck and bus drivers in the U.S.:

U. S. Dept. of Transportation- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Part 391, Subpart B — Qualification & Disqualification of Drivers
391.11 General qualifications of drivers.(b)(2) Can read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records.

Related information:

Should truckers be required to speak English?

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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