Friday, September 22, 2006

The Truck Driving School Scandal: Possible(?) Local Ties to Terrorism

It may not be as notorious as middle eastern "students" enrolling in flying schools in Florida,pre-9/11, but this story is huge for around here. I've been following this for months. How do you spell 'weasels'?
Not to be an alarmist, but I would think that a semi-truck, loaded to the gills with the right ingredients, could produce as much damage as, say, a jetliner...wouldn't you?
Either way, I'm just glad they finally nailed these scumbags!

15 Named in Indictments Alleging Fraud in Trucking Licenses

Two of the men arrested by FBI were from West Plains.

(by Melissa DeLoach
Springfield News-Leader

More than 200 Somalian and Bosnian immigrants illegally obtained Missouri commercial driver's licenses or certifications to handle hazardous materials through a West Plains truck-driving school that had a contract with the state, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Fifteen people were named in a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday, including the former superintendent of South Central Career Center, a truck-driving school operated by the West Plains public school district. (W.P. is our nearest "big town", being about 40 miles from us.)

The 62-count indictment --with charges ranging from conspiracy and mail fraud to illegally producing documents — relates to the issuance of licenses at SCCC and an agreement it had with a Kansas City truck driver training center.

Two of those indicted by the Springfield grand jury on Wednesday — Orbin "Orbie" Dale May, 63, and Dean P. Proffitt, 72 — were arrested by the FBI on Thursday in West Plains.

Proffitt is former superintendent of the trucking program. May was employed as a third-party tester at the school.

Both appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate James England, and arraignments were set for 11 a.m. Oct. 2.

Outside the courthouse, May waited for a family member to take him back to West Plains. He would not speak about the allegations, but said, "I've never had a set of handcuffs on in my life."

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, the FBI held a joint news conference with Bradley J. Schlozman, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Authorities said they don't think terrorism was involved, but the actions of the key defendants posed a homeland security risk. "It is not just the government's responsibility. It is a collective obligation that all of us share," said Schlozman in his remarks.

Special Agent Jeff Lanza, with the FBI in Kansas City, said 12 of the defendants were in custody Thursday.

A third key defendant is Ernest A. "Mustafa" White, 49, who ran the Kansas City-area MBS (Muslim Brothers and Sisters) driving school. White is alleged to have provided test answers to students at his driving school and also was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

May allegedly took money from White in exchange for a shortened test, and allowed White and others at MBS to take the test for their students. May would then sign the appropriate forms indicating a student had passed. At times, May would allow tests to be administered on the weekends, against its contract with the state.

Proffitt knew of the wrongdoing, including that May allegedly stole $6,000 from the school, but failed to report anything to the school or state, and even signed documents to make it appear May was not exceeding state limits when he tested more than the state allowed in a given day, the affidavit said.

The West Plains school had been under the FBI radar for years, Lanza said, when the Missouri Highway Patrol alerted them of a large number of applicants with names that appeared Middle Eastern in origin.

Neither May nor Proffitt — who is Democrat contender for the Missouri House of Representative 151st District in the Nov. 7 election — are now employed by the truck driving school. When the investigation broke in February, Proffitt resigned and May was let go.

Karla Eslinger, West Plains schools superintendent, said SCCC is no longer in operation as it lost its CDL accreditation. Consequently, it lost its funding as CDL fees sustained the program.

The West Plains School district does not fund the SCCC.

"Since all of this has occurred, we have been waiting to see the outcome," said Eslinger in a phone interview.

A commercial driver's license is required to operate heavy trucks and buses on public highways. A written and driving test are required for licensing.

The impact from the conspiracy was putting unskilled driver's out on the highways, said patrol Lt. John Hotz. (I think that would be only a small part of "the impact")

"We want to make sure, number one, that the driver is properly licensed and they know how to operate that vehicle," he said. With the average 18-wheeler weighing 80,000 pounds, mixed with an untrained driver, "that's a lot of potential to cause damage," he said. "We expect more out of a professional driver ... this is what they do for a living."

More indictments

Also named in Thursday's 62-count indictment were Howard E. Schneider, 39, of Overland Park, Kan.; Hiram Chebar Oliver, Raytown; Osman Abdullahi, 30, San Diego; Abdiwahab Mohabud Mohamed, 37, Minneapolis; Samir Hasanovic, 22, Arnold; and Kansas City residents Elias Mohamed, 25, Ahmed Muhidin Sharif, 27, Abdulfatah Osman Farah, 24, Yusuf Kalmole, 34, Adil Majlovic, 19, Mersud Kajtazovic, 31, and Abdirizak Abdi Mohamed, whose age was given as 25 or 32.

Uh-Huh, yep...nothing to see here, Citizen...move along...

UPDATE: The lovely Michelle has taken note of the story. Thanks, Michelle!


Anonymous Kathy said...

Gives a whole new spin on my favorite question to newcomers, "Well, what brought you to the Ozarks?"

9/22/2006 8:19 AM  
Blogger Pamela said...

Now I'll be afraid to drive on the freeway.

9/22/2006 9:14 AM  
Blogger white trash republican said... does give ya a moments pause when you see that big truck looming in your rearview mirror.
I'm glad they busted this outfit...but how many more are running the same scam?

9/22/2006 9:24 AM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Only 40 miles away? That's a bit too close for comfort.

9/22/2006 4:26 PM  
Blogger Meowkaat said...

Wow, that's really a story to give you a case of goosbumps down your spine, isn't it.

9/23/2006 11:11 AM  

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