Bus driver made £50,000 taking tests for learners

A former bus driver who earned up to £50,000 by sitting driving tests for scores of nervous and incompetent drivers was jailed for nine months yesterday. Adolphus Sorhaindo, 63, impersonated learners when he took the theory and practical tests required by law to qualify as a driver.

The unemployed grandfather took almost 150 tests before he was arrested last year, in some cases pretending to be half his age. He was caught only when a senior driving instructor recognised the Vauxhall Cavalier he used to take the tests and began secretly filming his activities.

Yesterday at Kingston Crown Court, Sorhaindo, from Maida Vale, west London, pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining property by deception in respect of seven theory tests and 15 practical tests. But police believe he sat many more tests. The court heard he had paid on his credit card for 147 theory tests and 99 practical tests. Sorhaindo worked by word of mouth across London and the Home Counties, with many customers attracted through a barber's shop.

One was Ruth Thompson, 41, from north London, who used Sorhaindo to get a licence for her husband Errol, 34, as a Christmas present. She later told police: "I know how he drives and I would fail him." Mrs Thompson paid Sorhaindo £550 for his so-called "complete package", which included theory and practical tests.

Both Thompsons pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods for which Mrs Thompson was sentenced to 80 hours' community service and Mr Thompson to 60 hours. Judge Michael Hucker told Sorhaindo it would be a "dereliction of his duty" not to jail him, despite his previous good character. He said: "If the driving licence scheme, which is highly valued compared to so many other countries, is to be maintained, it is vital that its integrity remains unimpaired."

Sorhaindo paid £5,995 to the Driving Standards Agency with his card before his activities were uncovered. Shane Sheridan, for the defence, said Sorhaindo had got into the situation by first offering unofficial driving lessons, having been a bus driver for 10 years. Before changes to the system of provisional licences, Sorhaindo was believed to have sat theory tests on behalf of others, carrying photographs of himself signed on the reverse to back up his identity claim.

After the introduction of photographic provisional licences, he simply took his chances posing as the customer. But a senior driving examiner in Morden, south London, Steve Aris, became suspicious. Mr Aris toured three test centres, filming Sorhaindo sitting tests.

Police found nine photographs of him certified as being someone else and 26 provisional licences. Outside court, a police spokesmen said said traffic officers were "horrified at the ease" with which Sorhaindo was able to impersonate so many drivers. The Automobile Association believes 500,000 of Britain's 32 million drivers are unlicensed.