A veteran California Highway Patrol officer has been indicted in an alleged bribery scheme at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in El Cajon -- the second such scandal to hit that office in recent years.
The indictment of CHP officer Carlos Ravelo was unsealed Thursday in San Diego federal court. He pleaded not guilty to issuing two temporary driver's licenses that he knew were bogus.
The indictment says that charges are "substantially the same facts" as the case of former DMV employee Alva Benavidez, who pleaded guilty in February to taking bribes of more than $5,000 to help people charged with drunk driving to retain their licenses.
Benavidez admitting taking cash, gift certificates, purses, meals and other "luxury items" in exchange for ensuring that people received "favorable treatment" at the DMV's driver safety office in El Cajon.
Benavidez resigned from the DMV in late 2014 after federal officers executed a search warrant on her home and office.
The indictment of Ravelo does not include details about what he allegedly received in exchange for arranging the two false temporary licenses.
A temporary Class-C license allows people to drive a car or pickup truck while they appeal at a DMV hearing to avoid having their license suspended for a drunk-driving arrest or other "high risk" driving offense.
A temporary license allows someone "to drive vehicles through the U.S. and on interstate highways," thus affecting "interstate and foreign commerce," according to the indictment of Ravelo.
Jim Abele, CHP division chief in San Diego, said Ravelo is on adminstrative leave but declined to provide other details.
"No one is above the law and everyone gets investigated the same, and that's the expectation," Abele said in a statement.
The indictment says Ravelo has been with the CHP since February 2002 and is "well-versed in the California laws" involving drunk driving and DMV hearings in which those suspensions can be appealed.
According to the U.S. attorney's office, the case is separate from that in which five DMV employees were convicted for taking bribes in the El Cajon and Rancho San Diego offices.
The bribes were in exchange for issuing driver's licenses to people who had flunked or not taken the tests, according to federal prosecutors.