Tennessee driver’s license worker charged with accepting bribes

By Duane W. Gang, The Tennessean

A Tennessee driver’s license examiner faces federal charges for issuing licenses to unqualified applicants in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribes, authorities said Thursday.

Prosecutors filed a federal criminal complaint Wednesday against Larry Murphy, 54, of Antioch, who served as a state Department of Safety supervising driver’s license examiner on Hart Lane in Nashville.

He was arrested and released on his own recognizance. His attorney, Craig Fickling of Cookeville, declined comment Thursday.

Murphy is on discretionary leave with pay pending the outcome of the charges, a department of safety spokeswoman said.

According to the complaint, Murphy issued licenses to undercover FBI agents in exchange for cash payments ranging from $850 for a regular license to as much as $3,500 for a commercial driver’s license.

“These allegations pose two serious problems facing our nation – public corruption and public safety,” U.S. Attorney Jerry E. Martin said in a statement.

The charges are the result of a five-month joint investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Bill Gibbons, the state’s safety and homeland security commission, said Murphy had been with the department since 2003.

“It’s especially disturbing because we consider our driver license examiners to really be on the front line in homeland security,” Gibbons told reporters Thursday.

False Social Security number created

Gibbons said there was nothing in Murphy’s background to suggest he might accept the bribes. But Gibbons said the department is discussing ways to strengthen its employee screening process.