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Fmr. Safety Dept. Employee Admits Taking $20K in Bribes for Licenses, Permits

A former Tennessee Department of Safety employee pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to one count of accepting more than $5,000 in bribes related to issuing driver’s licenses and permits to unauthorized individuals.

Larry Murphy, 54, of Antioch, had been charged with one count of accepting bribes and one count of conspiracy to produce identification documents without lawful authority while employed as a supervisory license examiner for the Department of Safety at the Hart Lane licensing facility in Nashville, according to court documents.

Murphy, a Gulf War veteran and Army retiree, was indicted, along with co-defendant Anny Castillo-Diaz, in May, following a five-month joint investigation by the FBI, the Federal Department of Homeland Security and the Tennessee Department of Safety, according to court documents.

The indictment charged that Murphy had accepted bribes from Castillo in order to produce driver’s licenses and permits for individuals who had either not taken or not passed the necessary exams.

At his hearing in Nashville before U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp, Murphy admitted that during the period between December 2011 and April 2012 he had unlawfully received at least $20,000 in bribes for issuing unauthorized licenses and permits, including special commercial permits for large trucks.

Many of these transactions occurred while being recorded by undercover agents posing as customers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Middle District of Tennessee.

According to his plea agreement, Murphy must forfeit all compensation received for the licenses issued.

“The defendant not only violated the law, he put the public’s safety at risk,” Bill Gibbons, commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security, said in a news release. “That behavior will not be tolerated.

Murphy’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 15. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Castillo, who is charged with paying bribes, conspiracy to produce identification documents without lawful authority, unlawful sale of U.S. citizenship documents and the sale of a Social Security card, had been scheduled to go to trial Tuesday morning, according to court documents.

However, she made a motion for a change of plea to guilty, and a hearing on that motion is now scheduled for today.

Alex Harris is with the Seigenthaler News Service-MTSU. He can be reached at alexander.harris.lf@gmail.com.

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Press Releases

TBI: Two Men Charged with Bribing Voters in Tellico Plains

Press Release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Feb. 3, 2012:

Chattanooga, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation yesterday arrested two individuals who have been under investigation by TBI at the request of the 10th Judicial District Attorney General since September 2011 for bribing voters during a Tellico Plains election.

Chuck Hunt 54, of Tellico Plains, Tenn. was indicted by the Monroe County Grand Jury on eight counts of bribery of a voter and eight counts of conspiracy to bribe a voter. Norman Nichols, 47, of Madisonville, Tenn. was indicted by the Monroe County Grand Jury on six counts of bribery of a voter and six counts of conspiracy to bribe a voter. Both Nichols and Hunt were buying votes during the 2011 Tellico Plains Mayoral race.

Both were booked into the Monroe County Jail on $1,000 bond each.