Fremont ticket-fixing scandal investigation expands

October 7, 2010 7:26:06 PM PDT
The investigation into a ticket-fixing scandal at the Fremont courthouse is expanding. The suspects are now being accused of using a technology loophole to get away with their scheme.

Traffic clerk Juan Hernandez pleaded not guilty Thursday to all the criminal counts including accepting bribes, embezzlement and grand theft. He is charged with fixing tickets in exchange for cash.

Hernandez was arrested in August after sheriff's deputies set up a sting in the Fremont courthouse. The sting was set up after a women alerted authorities that Hernandez had offered to "fix" her ticket.

Traffic clerk Felix Chavez was arrested last month; also charged with receiving money to fix tickets. Chavez pleaded no contest to the charges against him.

ABC7 has learned that investigators found at least three transactions, where he received $300-$400 each for fixing tickets.

"He would clear the ticket so the person basically would not have any record of that ticket at all," Alameda County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Sgt. J.D. Nelson said.

Investigators say Chavez and Hernandez discovered a secret which enabled them to do what they did.

"These two gentlemen took advantage of an antiquated computer system; they found a loophole in it and took advantage of it," Nelson said.

The glitch in the court computer system allows traffic clerks to clear tickets without leaving a trace.

The sheriff's office wants to know who else took advantage of that loophole.

"We're looking at a lot of different transactions that have gone out at the courthouse down there," Nelson said.

Most of the people at the courthouse Thursday because they got tickets told said they would not accept the bribe.

"I just try to do what's right by the law and pay my ticket," Marcia Ussery said.

"That would be tempting but that'd be against the law so I wouldn't," Cesar Cortes said.

Some said the two clerks violated the public's trust in the judicial system.

"If you can't trust a court clerk, I'm sure it could happen at different levels," motorist Fereshta Karim said.

Two additional traffic department employees have been suspended as part of the investigation. The court intends to install new software to close the loophole.


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