DENVER – The owner of Little Lake Driving Academy in Aurora, Colo., and the driving academy's clerk, were arraigned in U.S. District Court Wednesday on charges of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, Social Security Fraud and Bribery.
These arrests were announced by the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Colorado; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation; and the Colorado Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Investigations Unit.
Those arrested were Stuart Bryan King, 52, of Centennial, Colo., owner of Little Lake Driving Academy, and Griselda Trevino De Valenzuela, 42, of Aurora, who is the driving academy's clerk. A tentative trial date of June 3 has been set.
According to the indictment, Little Lake Driving Academy, located at 1415 Havana St. in Aurora, Colo., acted as a third-party tester for the State of Colorado's Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). As a third-party tester, Little Lake administered written and driving examinations on behalf of the State of Colorado in order for an individual to obtain a Colorado Driver's License. All driving schools must meet specific requirements and comply with Colorado State law to be a third-party tester for the DMV. The company must provide the requisite testing for individuals to obtain a basic operator's driver's license and/or instruction permit in the State of Colorado. The defendant, King, owns Little Lake Driving Academy, and is a licensed tester with the State of Colorado. King was authorized to conduct driver education classes as well as certify an applicant's successful written and driving examinations so they could receive the valid Colorado driving documents.
Co-defendant Griselda Trevino De Valenzuela acted as the secretary/manager of Little Lake Driving Academy. Her responsibilities included informing applicants of the documentation required to obtain a Colorado driver's license, collecting the documentation from the applicants, translating certain documents from English to Spanish, providing applicants with a study guide, administering the written test to applicants, grading those tests, and collecting money from the applicants. She then gave the money to King.
From August 2009 through November 2012, King and De Valenzuela knowingly devised and participated in a scheme to defraud the Colorado Department of Revenue's DMV by falsely certifying that applicants for a Colorado driver's license and instruction permit had successfully completed the required testing. As part of the scheme, the two defendants falsely certified that applicants had taken and passed the written tests. The applicants then presented the certified documents to the DMV and received by mail a State of Colorado driver's license and/or instruction permit.
As part of the scheme, the defendants charged about $130 to $420 in cash payments from applicants in return for fraudulently issuing passing grades. They are also alleged to have falsified the written test results for applicants who could not speak, read and/or write English adequately, or could not pass the written test for other reasons.
The investigation into King, De Valenzuela and Little Lake Driving Academy revealed that conspirators transported people who could not speak, read or write English from Missouri and other states to Colorado. Those transported to Colorado from Missouri had previously purchased the identities of U.S. citizens and obtained Missouri identification cards in the names of the stolen identities. These individuals, after utilizing the services of Little Lake, turned in their Missouri identification cards to obtain Colorado driver's licenses and instruction permits. Last year, as part of this same investigation, 20 individuals, who had utilized the services of Little Lake and who turned in Missouri identification cards, were indicted in Colorado for Aggravated Identity Theft. To date, Catarina Alcon, Elias Garcia-Perez, Jose Antonio Rivera, and Candelario Hernandez-Perez have been arrested based on the Aggravated Identity Theft indictments.
As a result of this investigation, the Colorado DMV is working on notifying the affected parties in this case. The DMV is working internally on the procedure and protocol for handling each individual applicant.
"Shutting down these types of illegal operations is an important process in maintaining the integrity of one of the most used forms of identification in the United States – the driver's license," said Kumar C. Kibble, special agent in charge of HSI Denver. "HSI leads the Document and Benefit Task Force, which includes many other government agencies, to specifically address these threats to national security."
"The IRS is aggressively pursuing those who steal others' identities and we will work with our law enforcement partners to bring those to justice who commit such crimes," said Stephen Boyd, special agent in charge for IRS's Criminal Investigation, Denver Field Office.
"Little Lake is one of 114 driving schools that provide customers with written and driving testing," said Michael Dixon, DMV senior director. "These schools provide a valuable service to the citizens of Colorado. It is unfortunate when a tester may be taking advantage of customers, but it is the exception rather than the rule. The DMV audits 100 percent of the driving schools each year."
King faces one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. If convicted of this count, he faces not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. He also faces one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. If convicted of this count, he faces not more than 10 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. He is free on $100,000 bond.
De Valenzuela faces one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. If convicted of this count, she faces not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. She faces one count of aggravated identity theft. If convicted of this crime she faces not more than two years imprisonment consecutive to any felony conviction herein, and up to a $250,000 fine. Lastly, she faces one count of Social Security Fraud, which carries a penalty of not more than five years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine. She is being held in federal custody with no bond.
This case is being investigated by HSI, the IRS's Criminal Investigation, and the Colorado Department of Revenue's Motor Vehicle Investigations Unit.
The defendants are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Mackey, District of Colorado.
The charges contained in the Indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.