COMPTON — School board candidate Saul E. Lankster has been convicted of selling false driving-school diplomas to undercover investigators who had posed last year as traffic offenders wishing to sidestep a series of court-ordered safety classes.
When sentenced Oct. 7, Lankster could receive up to four years and four months in prison and $10,000 in fines, said Deputy Dist. Atty. James Wilson.
The conviction apparently will not jeopardize Lankster's position on the November ballot as one of 20 candidates running for four seats on the Compton Unified School District board. A candidate can only be removed from the ballot by court order, said Marcia Ventura, a spokeswoman for the county registrar. But county legal experts said that Lankster might be prevented from assuming office, should he win.
Lankster served one term on the board in 1979 but has failed to win reelection in two subsequent attempts. He has also been an unsuccessful candidate in several other local elections and is a former Compton police officer.
Lankster, who was convicted Monday, could not be reached for comment.
Wilson said Lankster was arrested in July, 1984, on three felony charges of preparing false documents. Until then, Lankster had operated a state-licensed traffic safety school known as the University We-Stand-N-Line-For-U Driving School across from the South Central District courthouse in Compton.
Judges often order first-time traffic offenders to attend such schools. Those who complete at least eight hours of instruction are rewarded by having their otherwise good driving records restored.
"The conviction stays off your record" for people who complete the school, Wilson explained. "You're not fined and your insurance rates don't go up. The case against you is dropped, as if the policeman didn't write the ticket."
Wilson said the investigation stemmed from a complaint filed by a traffic offender who reported being approached by a man--allegedly an associate of Lankster's--as she left Municipal Court in Los Angeles. The man told her she could avoid having to attend safety classes by paying $20 for a false diploma.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles then sent in three undercover investigators, who purchased similar false certificates from Lankster, Wilson said.
The prosecutor said Lankster took the witness stand during the trial and acknowledged that the diploma sales took place but contended that he had been illegally entrapped by the investigators.