On September 19, 2012, Ying Wai Phillip Ng and his wife, Pui Kuen Ng, both naturalized citizens from Hong Kong, pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The charges emanated from an elaborate scheme which the Ngs, both 47, developed though their driving school, known as N & Y Professional Service Line. The scheme worked as follows: Mr. Ng would target non-English speaking applicants who were seeking to obtain commercial driver’s permits but were concerned that they couldn’t pass the written portion of the exam because it is only given in English or Spanish. Many of the Ngs customers spoke other languages, including Mandarin, which they are fluent in.
The applicant for a commercial driver’s permit would be provided by Mr. Ng with jacket which contained a hidden camera in the sleeve. The applicant was shown how to point the camera at each test question, and an image of the question would then be transmitted to the ceiling of a van occupied by Mr. Ng outside of the DMV office. Using a pager, Ng would then provide the correct answer to each of the questions: two beeps for the letter a, four beeps for the letter b, and six beeps for a c.
The evidence showed that approximately 720 applicants were then able to obtain fraudulent commercial driver’s permits through the DMV. The Ngs charged $1,800 for their “services.” The fraud was apparently brought to a grinding halt when an undercover agent through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of the Department of Homeland Security posed as an applicant, paid the $1,800 fee, was provided the jacket, obtained the answers fraudulently, and passed the exam.
In a tragic twist to the story, one of applicants who improperly procured his commercial permit was behind the wheel of a bus which crashed in Virginia in May of 2011, killing four passengers and injuring dozens of others.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted that “We must be able to trust that those who drive buses and trucks on our nation’s highways meet stringent standards for safety and competency. …the defendants put the public—passengers, pedestrians and drivers alike—at grave risk in order to line their own pockets. This office will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who seek to undermine public safety for commercial gain.”
The Ngs will be sentenced in January by Judge Leo Glasser. With their pleas of guilty, Mr. Ng faces up to 87 months in jail, and Pui Ng faces 30 months. In addition to their jail terms, the Ngs were ordered to close the school effective immediately and pay restitution of $175,000 to the government.