A former Department of Motor Vehicles examiner was arrested Tuesday and charged with demanding cash from prospective female motorists in exchange for allowing them to pass their road tests — and groping at least one woman during her exam, officials said.
Ian Alexander Cioffi, 35, of Stewart Manor, resigned in May 2018, according to the state inspector general’s office, which launched an investigation.
“This defendant used his position of authority to extort and abuse vulnerable New Yorkers while controlling the outcome of a critical test that was anything but routine and fair,” state Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro said in a statement.
Four times from February to April 2018, Cioffi allegedly committed the crimes in Queens during road tests, which are required to obtain driver’s licenses, Tagliafierro’s office said. Cioffi is accused of asking the women for cash, then taking from $40 to $400 from them.
Cioffi was arraigned in Queens County Court on Tuesday on charges of third-degree bribe receiving, fourth-degree grand larceny, first-degree falsifying business records, third-degree attempted bribe receiving and impairing the integrity of a government licensing examination, all felonies, and forcible touching and receiving unlawful gratuities, both misdemeanors. He was released without bail and is due back in court April 2, court records show.
Cioffi’s attorney, Paul Townsend, said his client has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The arrest was very “difficult” on Cioffi, who is now working as a taxi driver, Townsend said in an interview Wednesday. They are working to resolve the criminal matter quickly, including reaching a possible plea agreement.
“We’re exploring all the options,” Townsend said. “If that’s what is in Mr. Cioffi’s best interest, that’s what we’ll do.”
The inspector general’s office gave these accounts of the alleged crimes:
- Feb. 9, 2018, Cioffi demanded money from a driver on her road test in Kissena Park. He failed her after she told him she had no money.
- Cioffi made the same demand of the next prospective driver, who spoke limited English, then grabbed her purse from the backseat and handed it to her. Cioffi took $400 from her wallet and told her to drive back to the test site, “while placing a finger over his lips,” officials said. That driver passed.
- March 14, 2018, Cioffi did the same during a road test in Astoria. When the woman said she didn’t have the $100 Cioffi demanded, he lowered his passing price to $20, which she refused. He “placed his hand on the female driver’s leg as well as down her shirt,” then told her she passed without a required three-point turn or parallel parking.
- April 4, 2018, at a Whitestone road test, Cioffi demanded cash, then grabbed her bag from the backseat and stole $40 from her wallet, leaving her with $7.
“The defendant in this case allegedly took advantage of his position of power to line his own pockets and to satisfy his sexual desires,” Queens Chief Assistant District Attorney John Ryan said in a statement.
In an email, DMV spokesman Tim O'Brien said Cioffi "worked for NYS DMV from June 2016 – May 2018. DMV received no complaints before his resignation. Any complaints about such behavior should be referred to the Inspector General’s office and to the appropriate police department or district attorney."
He said the DMV cooperated with the investigation.
The New York State Inspector General hotline is 800-367-4448.