SANTA ANA (AP) — A clerk at the California Department of Motor Vehicles and five other people have been indicted on charges involving the creation of new identities with Puerto Rican documents that were then used to get driver’s licenses, authorities said Wednesday.
DMV clerk Tracy Lynette Jones pleaded not guilty on Monday in federal court in Santa Ana and was released on $25,000 bond, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.
Authorities say Jones altered records in the DMV database at the agency’s El Monte office to make it appear that applicants who presented Puerto Rican birth certificates and Social Security cards obtained from other defendants had passed the written and driving tests required to get a license.
The group sold the documents — which were genuine but belonged to other individuals — for as much as $5,000 to customers who included convicted criminals, authorities said.
“The real concern is it can be exploited, and we have several examples in this case, by bad actors,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s homeland security investigations in Los Angeles.
“They can hide behind these assumed identities, and they can victimize someone in the future.”
DMV spokesman Armando Botello declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. Jones’ lawyer, Kate Corrigan, said her client has no criminal background.
The case was investigated by ICE and DMV officials.
In court papers, an ICE investigator wrote that one of the defendants told an undercover agent that he could get the process done at three DMV offices. It was not immediately clear if other DMV employees were involved in the scheme.
The defendants also include four Southern California men, three who are free on bond, and Jorge “Diablo” Perez, who is originally from Mexico and is being sought by authorities, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.
The charges include aggravated identity theft and conspiring to produce identity documents.
The ring has been connected to at least two dozen cases, said Virginia Kice, an ICE spokeswoman.
Last month, a federal grand jury in Ohio charged nine people in a case involving identity documents from Puerto Rico.