LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — The Florida Highway Patrol has broken open a major fraud investigation that could impact your safety on the road.
Investigators say a clerk with the Palm Beach County Tax Collector's office was issuing fraudulent driver's licenses without having people take the necessary driving exam.
"People that really can't drive and shouldn't have been given a license," said Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon, who admits it's a scary scenario.
Dozens of drivers are now behind the wheel after fraudulently obtaining a driver's license.
FHP says it happened inside the Central Palm Beach Service Center in suburban Lake Worth Beach when the clerk, Norman Giddings, helped at least 63 people obtain a license without them taking a driving test.
Giddings had health problems and was not able to move around a lot, but investigators said he continued to issue driver's licenses and sometimes never stepped outside.
"I believe for every driver's license that he issued, I believe he was being paid $50, which is a piddly amount of money," Gannon said.
FHP says the fraud happened from November 2017 to February 2018, and the agency launched an investigation after receiving a tip. Investigators say a similar operation was also happening at the Belle Glade office.
"You just unleashed a gun to someone who doesn't know how to operate it," said Peter Duva, a driving instructor with the Safety Council of Palm Beach County.
Duva says putting drivers in a car without the road test can put lives in danger.
"You can take the same streets and routes to work every day and school every day, but there's always a different experience, practice is vital," Duva said.
FHP has not released the names of the 63 people who were given a license without taking a driving test, or said if they will be revoked.
Gannon tells WPTV changes are already being made when issuing licenses to help prevent this from happening again.
"To not allow just one person to give driving tests, but it's now more than one person that does that," Gannon said.
At least three people who received a fraudulent license have been charged. Giddings, 61, will not be charged because he died in February, right before he was set to be arrested.
"The Friday night he went in the hospital, and he was going to be arrested Monday morning," Gannon said.
FHP says this is still an active investigation.