FRESNO, Calif. - A former technician with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and 14 others are under indictment after a probe involving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) revealed the defendants conspired to sell official California driver's licenses to ineligible individuals.
The indictments, handed down last week, were unsealed Tuesday following the arrest of 14 of the defendants. The first indictment charges former DMV senior vehicle technician Alfonso Casarez, 49, of Fresno, and 12 others with 34 counts of criminal conspiracy, unlawful production of identification documents, and unlawful transfer of identification documents.
According to the 34-count indictment, in return for payment, Casarez electronically altered DMV records to reflect that applicants for "Class C" or "Class A" commercial driver's licenses had passed required written and behind-the-wheel tests when in fact they had not passed those tests. Based on the information Casarez entered into the DMV records, the DMV issued official California driver's licenses to the applicants.
The others named in that indictment include: Casarez's sister, Rosemary Fierros, 46; Victor Vasquez, 34; Dimas Dominguez Martinez, 38; Jesus Dominguez Martinez, 39; Armando Maravilla, 39; and Cassandra Casarez Fierros, 19, all of Madera, Calif.; Armando Solorio Heredia, 32; and Luis Alberto Moreno Delgado, 31, both of Riverdale, Calif.; Angel Ociris Gutierrez, 26, of Salinas, Calif.; Alcides Urias, 33, of Calexico, Calif.; Armando Treyes Andrade, 48, of Chowchilla, Calif.; and Jose Manuel Garcia, 43, of Kerman, Calif. Cassandra Casarez Fierros is also charged with making false statements to a federal law enforcement agent.
Rosemary Fierros allegedly passed information and money from the applicants to her brother for the licenses. Victor Vasquez allegedly recruited individuals to apply for the fraudulently issued driver's licenses. Gutierrez, Urias, Dimas Martinez, Jesus Martinez, Delgado, Andrade, Heredia, Garcia, and Maravilla acted as recruiters of potential recipients and worked with Victor Vasquez to get fraudulent licenses issued.
In the second indictment, Casarez is charged along with Manjit Singh, 46, of India, and Yadwinder Singh, 46, of Fresno, with 15 counts of criminal conspiracy, unlawful production of identification documents, and unlawful transfer of identification documents.
According to the second indictment, Casarez conspired to alter electronic DMV records to circumvent required DMV written and behind-the-wheel tests in order to issue basic "Class C" or "Class A" commercial driver's licenses to recipients for a fee. Manjit Singh allegedly passed the recipients' information and money to Casarez to get the licenses issued, and Yadwinder Singh acted as a primary recruiter.
"The allegations in these indictments describe a corrupt scheme that led to the issuance of licenses to persons who may not have been qualified under California law," said U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner. "Such schemes can put dangerous drivers on the road and endanger the public. I commend the investigators with DMV and with Homeland Security Investigations for exposing and investigating this activity."
"Given the potential security and safety implications, targeting organizations that enable individuals to fraudulently obtain legitimate U.S. identity documents is a top enforcement priority for ICE Homeland Security Investigations," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for the ICE HSI in northern California. "Those concerns were particularly acute in this case, where our investigation revealed some of the documents allegedly being sold by these defendants included commercial driver's licenses used by individuals responsible for hauling hazardous materials. We will move aggressively against those who corrupt the system and put the public at risk in an effort to satisfy their own greed."
"The serious threat posed by those who illegally purchased their driver's licenses is equally as criminal as the unlawful selling of these documents," said George Valverde, Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles. "We applaud the joint efforts of DMV's Investigations and Internal Affairs offices, who worked collaboratively with the U.S. Attorney's Office and ICE Homeland Security Investigations in this prosecution."
All of the defendants in the two indictments, with the exception of Angel Ociris Gutierrez, Alcides Urias, Jesus Dominguez Martinez and Manjit Singh, were arraigned Tuesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Beck in Fresno and pleaded not guilty.
In addition to ICE HSI, the ongoing investigation involves the California DMV Investigations office and the DMV Internal Affairs office. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Henry Z. Carbajal III and Grant B. Rabenn.
The maximum statutory penalty for criminal conspiracy and making false statements to federal law enforcement agents is five years in prison. The maximum statutory penalty for unlawful production of identification documents and unlawful transfer of identification documents is 15 years in prison.