FRESNO, Calif. — A Madera woman pleaded guilty Monday to making false statements to a government agency in connection with a scheme involving the sale of official California driver's licenses to ineligible individuals.
Cassandra Casarez Fierros, 19, of Madera, admitted to investigators she never took or passed a behind-the-wheel test, but received her license nonetheless. The charges are the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Investigations Division Office of Internal Affairs. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Henry Z. Carbajal III and Grant B. Rabenn.
Fierros was one of 13 people indicted in August 2011 for her role in the driver's license fraud scheme. For a fee, a DMV technician 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. Based on that information, the DMV issued official California driver's licenses to the applicants.
According to court documents, on February 25, Fierros told an HSI special agent and a DMV investigator that she never took or passed a behind-the-wheel test, but obtained her driver's license from her uncle, a DMV technician. He provided it to her as a favor to her mother. But at another interview with special agents on June 23, 2011, Fierros recanted her prior statements. She told the special agents she had taken and passed the DMV written and behind-the-wheel tests in 2010 at the DMV office in Madera. She claimed she received her driver's license via U.S. mail.
"Targeting schemes like this that enable individuals to illegally obtain legitimate U.S. identity documents is a top enforcement priority for Homeland Security Investigations," said Clark Settles, the special agent in charge who oversees HSI Fresno. "Those who engage in this type of fraud are putting the security of our communities and even our country at risk."
Fierros' sentencing is set for July 9. She faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
Charges are currently pending against Fierros' uncle Alfonso Casarez and her mother Rosemary Fierros as well as 10 other defendants. They are scheduled to appear in court May 21.
The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.