He studied the manual, got a learner’s permit, and took professional driving lessons to prepare for the commercial driver’s license test.
But Ruben Laroche, 47, of Attleboro, says he got his license in 2018 without taking the exam, even though he didn’t ask for the shortcut. Instead, he said that the day before his scheduled test, a friend who worked at the Registry of Motor Vehicles asked for his learner’s permit and Laroche gave it to him.
From there, his permit exchanged hands again — from his friend at the Registry to a State Police trooper who signed it and gave Laroche passing marks on the skills test, which he never took. Then the friend returned the signed permit to Laroche.
“I was shocked and asked him how he managed to do this,” Laroche wrote in an affidavit submitted on Feb. 2 as part of a lawsuit he filed against the Registry to get his now-suspended license back. His friend told him “not to worry, that someone had owed him a favor,” the affidavit said.
Laroche’s court filings mark the first time a Registry worker has been implicated in the alleged scheme in which four current and former Massachusetts state troopers are accused of falsifying results on commercial driver’s license tests, some in exchange for bribes. His lawsuit and sworn statement were filed in court three days after the accused were arrested.
In 2022, investigators questioned Laroche about his Registry friend and the trooper who signed the paperwork for his commercial driver’s license, his affidavit disclosed, and in January 2023, he testified before a federal grand jury in Boston investigating the case.
In court papers, Laroche identifies his friend as Cornelius Rivers, who worked at the Registry office in Brockton, and he says federal prosecutors have accused now-retired trooper Calvin Butner of falsifying the records that showed Laroche took and passed the exam.
A man who answered the phone at a listing for Rivers declined to comment, and Rivers didn’t respond to an email. The Registry said Rivers hasn’t worked there since February 2022 but didn’t answer further questions about him, citing the investigation involving State Police personnel.
Online state payroll records show Rivers was a driver’s license examiner.
State Police, the US attorney’s office in Massachusetts, and investigators from two federal agencies involved in the troopers’ case declined to comment on Laroche’s claims.
Laroche said in court documents that he has never met Butner and has never “directly or indirectly” provided him with “anything of value.”
Butner was arrested in Florida on Jan. 30 and pleaded not guilty in federal court in Boston on Wednesday.
In an email, Butner’s lawyer, William H. Connolly, said his client was a “respected Trooper” for 40 years and “we look forward to defending these charges.” He declined to comment on Laroche’s claims.
The commercial driver’s license case is the latest in a string of scandals since 2017 involving the State Police, which has been without a permanent leader since last February. Laroche’s account also casts a harsh light on the Registry’s licensing duties, where past bureaucratic mistakes have contributed to deadly outcomes.
In 2019, the Registry faced a public uproar over its failure to track problem drivers beyond state lines after a trucker from West Springfield, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, was involved in a crash that killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire. A jury acquitted Zhukovskyy, 28, of criminal charges in August 2022, and New Hampshire officials say he is seeking permission to resume driving there.
At a news conference on Jan. 30, acting US Attorney Joshua S. Levy estimated that more than two dozen people received passing grades from State Police troopers on commercial driver’s licensing exams between 2018 and 2023 without demonstrating the required skills or even taking the tests. The Registry said the agency received 26 names from federal prosecutors and revoked the authority of those people to operate commercial vehicles.
Charged were retired troopers Butner, of Halifax, and Perry Mendes, of Wareham, both age 63; Joel Rogers, 54, of Bridgewater; and Gary Cederquist, 58, of Stoughton, a former sergeant who previously led the commercial driver licensing unit. Cederquist and Rogers retired from the State Police this month, both with dishonorable discharges.
Two of Cederquist’s civilian friends were also charged: Scott Camara, 42, of Rehoboth, and Eric Mathison, 47, of East Boston. The six have pleaded not guilty.
The indictment accuses Cederquist of using his authority to give passing grades on road tests for payoffs like a new snow blower and driveway renovation worth $10,000 from people who wanted commercial driver’s licenses for themselves or for relatives.
Prosecutors also allege Mathison provided Cederquist, Butner, Mendes, and an unindicted trooper with free coffee, bottled water, and candy in exchange for help getting commercial driver’s licenses for colleagues who needed to be licensed to drive delivery trucks.
In his lawsuit against the Registry, Laroche said investigators assured him his cooperation with the federal probe wouldn’t affect his livelihood. But he said the Registry suspended his commercial driver’s license last March, which he needs for work delivering hazardous materials such as propane.
Laroche appealed the suspension in May to the state Division of Insurance, which ordered the Registry to let him take a commercial driver’s license road test, his lawsuit said. So far the agency has refused to let him schedule the exam, his complaint said.
In court documents, Laroche said he “unknowingly and innocently” got the commercial driver’s license through an “abbreviated process,” but has since driven commercially for more than 12,000 hours without a crash or traffic citation. A court hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday.
“I deeply regret my involvement in this incident and my failure to subsequently question whether having the driving skills test requirement waived in my favor was above board or would come back to hurt me and my family in such a punitive way,” Laroche wrote in his affidavit.
Laroche’s complaint and his attorney said Laroche, who is Black, approached Rivers because he worried the State Police trooper giving the road exam wouldn’t treat him fairly because of his race.
The federal government regulates the operation of commercial vehicles such as tractor trailers and school buses, but state governments issue the special credentials. Applicants must pass a three-part skills test, and in Massachusetts, only troopers are authorized to give the exam, according to federal prosecutors.
Laroche, who previously worked for the Globe’s home delivery operation, made arrangements with a Globe employee to borrow a Globe truck to take the test but never took the exam or used the truck, his affidavit and lawyer said.
Attorney George F. Gormley, who represents Laroche, said his client didn’t give Rivers anything to get the license.
Two years ago when the Registry announced that about 2,100 customers in Brockton were granted noncommercial driver’s licenses without taking road tests, the agency said it suspended all of those licenses and fired four workers.
Federal prosecutors brought criminal cases against four people: a Registry manager in Brockton and three others who didn’t work for the agency.
Three defendants pleaded guilty and received prison sentences, court papers show. They were involved with a Registry worker who administered road tests in Brockton and awarded passing grades in exchange for payments, federal prosecutors said. The road test examiner is identified in federal court papers as a co-conspirator and is not named. The Registry suspended him in April 2021 and later fired him, and then he began cooperating with investigators, court papers show.
A fourth defendant, a driving instructor from Dorchester, was charged on Jan. 31 and plans to plead guilty, court papers show.