Trucker Uses Fake Identity To Obtain CDL Then Sues DOT
Berks County, Pennsylvania – A trucker who used a fake identity to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) has lost his appeal of a lawsuit he filed against the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
Truck driver Gonzalo Montanez filed a lawsuit against PennDOT in July 2018 alleging the department had violated his rights of “due process and a timely hearing” in November 2017 when it suspended his CDL, which he admitted was obtained through deceptive means.
According to court documents, Montanez changed his identity from “Braulio DLeon” to “Gonzalo Montanez” in 2013 in order to obtain his driver’s license.
Prior to obtaining his license in 2013, Montanez (who identified as DLeon at the time) received traffic citations in 2006, 2008, and 2010.
He was also cited in each incident for driving without a license.
In each case, court records show Montanez pleaded guilty and paid the associated fines.
However, the 2008 and 2010 citations triggered 6-month and 12-month suspensions of his driver’s license (which he did not possess).
He was ordered to surrender his license (which he did not possess) through suspension notices mailed to him.
PennDOT records prove the department mailed the suspension notices to the address on file for “DLeon.”
In 2016, he used his new identity as Montanez (to hide his previous driving record under the name of DLeon), in order to obtain a CDL, according to testimony.
Investigators uncovered Montanez’s driver’s license and CDL scam in March 2017 after Montanez sought to renew his CDL.
According to court documents, in the course of the CDL renewal process, PennDOT used facial recognition software to compare Montanez’s license photograph to others in the department’s database.
When it did, officials discovered two other identity matches… DLeon and a third identity, “Alfonso Rodea.”
All three identities – Montanez, DLeon, and Rodea – had different department identification numbers, addresses, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, according to officials.
In May 2017, the department forwarded this information to the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) for further investigation.
In November 2017, after investigating and interviewing Montanez, PSP advised the department that Montanez, DLeon, and Rodea were all identities used by Montanez.
PSP recommended that the department merge the records of all three under Montanez and cancel the identification cards issued under the DLeon and Rodea names.
The Department did so, and records show that within two days after receiving PSP’s report, the officials mailed notices of the 2008 and 2010 suspensions to Montanez at the address listed on Montanez’s driver’s license.
Montanez Challenges Suspensions Claiming His “Due Process” Rights Were Violated
In July 2018, Montanez brought a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, PennDOT, and the Bureau of Driver Licensing.
The suit, filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, appealed the suspension of his driver’s license and CDL.
He argued that his “due process” rights were violated and contended he never received the suspension notices.
Further, he asserted that by paying for training to obtain his CDL in 2016, and subsequently leaving his previous job for a driving position in which a CDL is required, he relied on the absence of suspensions.
Consequently, he argued he would be unjustly harmed by the department’s late notice if the suspensions were to take effect after such a long delay.
Montanez also argued PennDOT should have used its facial recognition software to discover earlier that Montanez and DLeon were the same person.
TRENDING TRUCKING LEGAL NEWS
He contended PennDOT’s delay in discovering his use of multiple identities resulted in a denial of due process by depriving him of a timely hearing on the suspensions.
Montanez’s arguments didn’t end there though.
He also asserted that his actions were “harmless” and should be tolerated or excused because (he claims) he never injured anyone in an accident.
The trial court denied his appeal.
So, Montanez appealed the trial court’s decision.
Appeals Court Renders Opinion
Montanez’s appeal, filed in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, was heard by a three judge panel in May of 2019.
Judge Ellen Ceisler issued the court’s opinion on July 10.
In a withering rebuke of Montanez, Judge Ceisler wrote,
Essentially, (Montanez) argues that although he acted unlawfully and intentionally in deceiving the Department by using multiple fraudulent identities, the Department was at fault because his intended deception succeeded for several years.
Not surprisingly, (Montanez) cites no authority whatsoever for this argument.
We reject it as baseless and improper.
Judge Ceisler also addressed Montanez’s claims that because he had not received any citations since obtaining his driver’s license and CDL he is not a danger to the motoring public.
He (Montanez) suggests that imposing the suspensions now would not serve the Department’s interest in protecting the public from unsafe drivers.
Moreover, the Department and the public also have an interest in knowing the true identities of those who are operating motor vehicles, in order to ensure that those persons are financially responsible in the event of an accident.
An individual who has repeatedly flouted the law by continuing to drive without a license despite three citations and the imposition of two suspensions for that conduct, and who has deceived the Department and the public by using multiple fraudulent identities while doing so, cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a safe or responsible driver.
To read Judge Ceisler’s full opinion, click HERE.