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West Valley Focus

NORTHRIDGE : No Contest Plea in DMV Records Case

April 24, 1993|THOM MROZEK

A retired West Valley detective pleaded no contest Friday to charges of illegally selling Department of Motor Vehicles records obtained from a Los Angeles Police Department computer system to a private investigation firm.

Karol Chouinard, 51, told Van Nuys Municipal Court Judge Alan Ellis that she would not offer a defense to misdemeanor charges of unlawful use of computer data and disclosing DMV records.

Ellis immediately sentenced Chouinard to two years probation and ordered her to pay a $2,000 fine and to donate $1,000 to the CSUN school of computer science.

Prosecutors said the donation will support a scholarship for a class called Computers in Society, which deals with the ethical use of computer technology and how people can be affected when private information becomes available.

Chouinard made the plea during her first court appearance on a 15-count complaint filed by the city attorney's office. In criminal courts, a no-contest plea carries the same penalties as a conviction resulting from a guilty plea.

Throughout most of 1991, Chouinard used the LAPD Network Communication System to access DMV records, which were sold to a private investigation firm in San Mateo County called Searchlight, investigators said.

The illegal use of the computer information was discovered when the San Carlos Police Department searched the agency, which specialized in locating people, and discovered about 100 LAPD printouts, some of which carried Chouinard's name.

The search also turned up canceled checks that indicated the owner of Searchlight had paid Chouinard $1,405, according to prosecutors.

Chouinard retired from the department in January, 1992, after 25 years on the force.

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