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Traffic school owner arrested for allegedly selling fake documents

The owner of Van Nuys driving and traffic schools has been arrested for allegedly selling fraudulent traffic school completion certificates, passports and Department of Homeland Security forms.

Otto Escobar, 54, offered an eight-hour traffic school course for $35 and a 12-hour course for $50, but for people in a hurry he would allegedly provide the certificate on the spot for $85 to $100, said Det. Ron Sabatine of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Commercial Crimes Bureau.

“He owns more than one school and the schools do legitimate business,” Sabatine said, “and they also do a side business.”

Escobar’s businesses include Local Traffic School, with several locations, and OK Driving School in Van Nuys, according to law enforcement. An attempt to reach Escobar for comment was unsuccessful.

The long-running investigation spanned from mid-2008 until August and involved the sheriff’s department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and the California Department of Motor Vehicles. At several points undercover officers allegedly purchased illegal services from Escobar, a resident of Granada Hills.

On Tuesday, investigators with warrants searched Escobar’s Van Nuys business, his residence and his car. Evidence seized included dozens of rubber stamps with fraudulent state and federal seals, several reams of blank DMV paper containing the state of California seal, several blank Guatemalan passports and Department of Homeland Security forms, officials said.

“We found more than what we expected to find,” Sabatine said.

The fraudulent documents could be used to obtain a valid temporary driver’s license, the detective added. Some of the documents allegedly sold for more than $1,000.

Escobar was arrested and booked Tuesday at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station on charges of preparing false documents for court and later released on $20,000 bail. He has yet to be formally charged in court. Federal charges are pending, Sabatine said.

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-- Howard Blume

 
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