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Document and Benefit Fraud

Northern California woman receives 4-year prison term for role in driver's license fraud scheme

FRESNO, Calif. – A Fresno-area woman convicted of serving as the "recruiter" in a far-reaching scheme to sell California driver’s licenses to ineligible individuals was sentenced Monday to four years in prison, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Rosemary Fierros, 47, of Madera, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill. In February, a federal jury found Fierros guilty of 31 criminal counts. According to evidence presented at trial, Fierros recruited recipients of the driver’s licenses and used "brokers" to recruit recipients of the licenses. She passed the money, along with the recipients’ information for the applications, to her brother Alfonso Casarez, 50, of Fresno, who worked for the DMV as a Senior Motor Vehicle Technician.

Fierros charged recipients $1,000 or more for "Class A" commercial licenses, and several hundred dollars for "Class C" driver’s licenses. The recipients were to apply at a DMV office, pay license fees, take a photograph and retain a receipt. Casarez then electronically altered DMV records to reflect that applicants had passed the required written and behind-the-wheel tests when in fact they had not passed those tests. Based on the information that Casarez entered into the DMV records, the DMV issued official California driver’s licenses to the applicants.

"California’s licensing procedure is necessary to keep California’s roads safe from unqualified drivers," said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. "Persons willing to put the public at risk by circumventing the laws for their own greed will be prosecuted and will face prison time."

"This sentence is a reminder about the consequences facing those involved in the illegal document trade," said Mike Prado, resident agent in charge for HSI Fresno. "Individuals who enable ineligible and potentially unqualified individuals to obtain driver’s licenses are putting all motorists at risk. This reckless criminal conduct will not be tolerated and HSI will continue to move aggressively against those who put personal profit ahead of public safety."

"This sentence should serve as a warning that justice will prevail when it comes to any criminal activity involving DMV records," said DMV Chief Deputy Director Jean Shiomoto. "The DMV is committed to ensuring the security of California driver licenses."

On February 19, 2013, Casarez pleaded guilty for his involvement in the conspiracy. Casarez is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge O’Neill on June 10. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison for each of the two conspiracies for which he pleaded guilty. 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.

Alfonso Casarez also pleaded guilty in a second indictment, on Feb. 19, to conspiring with Manjit Singh, 46, of India, and Yadwinder Singh, 46, of Fresno, to produce and sell driver’s licenses to ineligible individuals. Manjit Singh passed applicants’ information and money to Casarez to get the licenses issued, and Yadwinder Singh acted as a primary recruiter. Yadwinder Singh was sentenced to three years in prison. The case involving Manjit Singh is pending.

HSI worked closely with DMV’s Investigations Division and the DMV Office of Internal Affairs on the probe. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Henry Z. Carbajal III and Grant B. Rabenn are prosecuting the cases.