DMV looks at ears, eyes, mouths as well as faces

It's no easy feat to identify a specific Bimbo amid the bevy of bimbos in Las Vegas.

But that is what Las Vegas police are tasked with doing after the Department of Motor Vehicles flagged a motorist who attempted to obtain a duplicate identification card last month.

Actually, authorities are unsure whether they have in custody Frank Anthony Bimbo, the name listed on the expired identification card, or whether his documents were fraudulent and he actually is one of 10 other people he claimed to be during DMV visits over the past 13 years.

"Sometimes we can't tell which are the real records, and that's the case this time," DMV spokesman Tom Jacobs said. "At this point, he's muddied the waters with so many IDs, we don't know who he is."

So the fake or real Bimbo sits at the Clark County Detention Center under yet another name, John Doe.

Nobody knows what this guy, who is between 23 and 38 years old, was up to because he is not talking. But, as Jacobs pointed out, people who secure more than one identification card are typically up to no good.

That is precisely why in 2008 the department implemented its new facial recognition program, the same one that raised enough suspicions to summon the fraud unit on Mr. Bimbo, or whoever he is.

Under the facial recognition program, DMV technicians who take a motorist's photograph pull up the picture on file and compare features. They look at your ears, your eyes, your mouth and facial structure -- anything that is unalterable. After that, a trained expert will plug the name and photograph into the computer program and compare it to other pictures of people with similar facial features. Hopefully, an older picture of you is included in that lineup. If not, you are flagged like Mr. Bimbo.

Facial recognition is one of many new security features introduced after 9/11, when the federal government learned that the terrorists who hijacked the airliners had more than 30 identification cards -- most from Florida -- between them.

"Those Florida IDs were gold," Jacobs said.

The security feature has become a useful tool for law enforcement. Since the DMV began its program, those nabbed for multiple or fraudulent identifications were not up to anything nearly as nefarious as the terrorists, but they were hardly upstanding citizens. In the first quarter of 2009, the DMV had 12,900 potential cases and pursued 363 of them.

In many cases, Nevadans are trying to obtain more money from the welfare system by collecting under their various identifications. Others would not be eligible under their true names, Jacobs said.

"Welfare fraud or they're avoiding criminal prosecution, that's typically what's happened under the high profile cases we've had," Jacobs said.

Nevada began cracking down on the security of its identification cards in 2003 after realizing that people from states with more lax rules, such as Utah and Oregon, were coming into Nevada and switching out their driver's licenses or identity cards. State officials grew concerned that undocumented immigrants were securing driver's licenses.

In March 2005, the DMV took further steps to enhance security after some crooks crashed a truck through the front doors of the Donovan Way office and escaped with absolutely everything necessary to make a legitimate driver's license.

That same month, a fraternity member on the University of Nevada, Reno campus was busted for producing fake IDs and, as Jacobs puts it: "This guy was making a real good card."

And, no, Joe Friday, the two cases were not related. The fraternity kid's card might have been good except for one problem: the gold seal was upside-down.

The student was busted after one of his clients was pulled over and brandished the fake ID.

Jacobs and law enforcement authorities not only do not know Mr. Bimbo's real identity, but they haven't a clue about his intentions.

In the years before the facial recognition program, he was able to obtain 11 different identities -- 10 in Nevada -- between 1997 and 2007.

He has been charged with multiple felonies related to fraud and has several other warrants for his arrest under other identities.

Huh? If you're going to go to the trouble of acquiring so many different documented personalities, wouldn't you at least keep one of them clean?

Regardless, Mr. Bimbo is sitting in jail in lieu of $35,000 bail.

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