Crime

Bribes to get taxi and limo driving permit: $80 and a sandwich

Miami-Dade police say county employee Cheryl Jones, 49, altered English language exams on transportation tests for a payoff.
Miami-Dade police say county employee Cheryl Jones, 49, altered English language exams on transportation tests for a payoff.

Two Miami-Dade employees who administered language tests for county transportation drivers were charged with bribery, accused of accepting small payments — even food in some instances — to alter exam test scores.

Officers in the police department’s public corruption unit say that 123 times over the first 10 months of 2014, Marcy Petriva Fort, 49, and Cheryl Linda Jones, 60, altered the scores to appear as if the applicants answered at least 70 percent of the questions correctly, the percentage needed to pass the test.

Miami-Dade police say Fort and Jones changed the scores on 123 of the 133 exams to reflect a passing grade even though the applicant failed. Jones was arrested in September after police were alerted to the alleged bribery scheme. Fort was charged Thursday after police ensnared her in a sting.

Police said Jones admitted to collecting about $500 from test takers, and that “she has occasionally accepted food, such as a coffee for breakfast or a sandwich for lunch.” Jones also said that Fort would charge between $80 and $100 for each altered test and split the take with her.

Two weeks ago, according to the women’s arrest warrant, a detective met with Fort after talking to her on the phone and agreeing to an altered score. Then he handed her $100. Both women were charged with bribery.

The women worked in the Miami-Dade Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, which administers language tests for anyone trying to drive a taxi, limo or a special transporation services vehicle.

To get a license, a driver must take a class that includes an English proficiency exam and a written and a multiple-choice test. Though the test is scored by a computerized test scoring program, the results must be entered into a database by hand.

Miami-Dade taxi drivers protest in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole for permits to drive in county. The protest is I going till demands are met according to organizers.

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