NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two New York bus drivers have been arrested for wrongfully obtaining commercial driver's licenses in a widening crackdown sparked by a deadly Bronx bus crash, officials said on Thursday.
In a sweep ordered by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Department of Motor Vehicles used sophisticated facial recognition technology to scan driving records and flag any instances in which a single individual appeared to have licenses under multiple names.
Arrested were Emel Enrique Marin, a school-bus driver, and George Gregory Gonsalves, a passenger-bus driver, on charges of wrongly obtaining new licenses using an alias after their previous licenses were suspended.
"The alleged failure of the defendants to be totally truthful with state authorities or their employers about the status of their driver's licenses compromised the transportation safety of their passengers, some of whom were children," said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown in a statement announcing the arrests.
Since the Bronx crash, the Department of Transportation, using roadside checkpoints, has ordered dozens of buses and bus drivers off the road for violations found on driving records or vehicles, the governor's office said.
Meanwhile, the DMV began its records scan, resulting in the arrests of Gonsalves and Marin.
Marin's arrest came as a surprise to his employer, the Little Richie Bus Company.
"For the last 11 years he's had a spotless record," said company attorney Sid Davidoff. He said Marin had been recertified to drive a school bus every year by the Department of Education.
However, the DMV cited more recent problems, noting Marin had another license under the alias of Carlos Lopez that was suspended in December 2005.
Gonsalves' employer, Community Transportation Systems of Queens, did not return a call seeking comment.
Federal and state authorities are still looking into the cause of the March 12 tour bus crash on Interstate 95 in the Bronx that killed 15 passengers.
Driver Ophadel Williams has said that he lost control of the vehicle after swerving to avoid a tractor-trailer.
Investigators are trying to determine whether Williams was sufficiently rested and alert on the job, and whether or not he lied or used aliases to obtain his commercial driver's license, which has since been suspended.
One of the surviving passengers, Yuke Chue Lo, who suffered a fractured skull, filed a lawsuit this week in the State Supreme Court in the Bronx against Williams and his employer, World Wide Travel, accusing the driver of "negligently falling asleep."
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)