HATTIESBURG, Miss. — A Mississippi woman and more than a dozen aliens unlawfully present in the United States were arrested and charged with federal identity theft Friday. They allegedly took part in a scheme to provide aliens with genuine state driver's licenses obtained by using legitimate identification documents stolen from U.S. citizens. The federal charges stem from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations (MBI).
HSI special agents arrested Lorena Gomez, 33, a U.S. citizen, and 13 aliens Friday in Laurel. MBI investigators simultaneously arrested two Mississippi Department of Public Safety employees on forgery-related charges.
According to the complaint filed in federal court, Gomez is charged with stealing the identities of U.S. citizens and then providing their identity documents to approximately 70 illegal aliens since November 2013. The aliens then allegedly obtained valid Mississippi driver's licenses under the citizens' names using the fraudulent documents. The two arrested Mississippi Department of Public Safety employees are accused of conspiring with Gomez to sell driver's licenses to aliens who purchased identity documents from Gomez.
"Fraudulent documents threaten the security of all citizens by making it easier for criminals to commit a range of offenses from identity theft to potential terrorism," said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans. "Further, this scheme created a nightmare scenario in which citizens could potentially have been held responsible for driving infractions or even criminal acts committed by the aliens using their stolen identities."
Parmer oversees a five-state area of operations to include Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee.
If convicted, Gomez faces a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.
A complaint is a formal charge against a defendant under the law. That charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court.