El Monte DMV clerk, others, face charges in alleged identity theft conspiracy

SANTA ANA>> An El Monte DMV clerk and five others defendants face federal identity theft charges stemming from an alleged scheme to sell legitimate Puerto Rican birth certificates and Social Security numbers to create phony new documents for buyers, many of them previously deported felons, authorities said Wednesday.
Tracey Lynette Jones, 33, of Long Beach, an employee of the DMV office in El Monte, surrendered to investigators Monday after a federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment against her and five other defendants, late last month, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
Also charged is alleged scheme ringleader Wilfredo Montero, 36, of Los Angeles; Adolfo Maria Cruz, 47, of Corona; Roberto Ruiz, 35, of Tustin; Jose Cruz, 49, of Corona; and Jorge “Diablo” Perez, also known as Pedro Josue Figeroa-Martinez, 33, of Mexico.
All six defendants are charged with conspiracy to produce ID theft documents, officials said. Some of them, including Jones, are also charged with additional ID-theft related crimes.
“The conspiracy was allegedly spearheaded by Montero and catered to individuals willing to pay as much as $5,000 for new identities obtained with genuine birth certificates and Social Security numbers obtained from Puerto Rico residents,” Mrozek said. “Investigators are working to identify the source of the documents obtained from Puerto Rico.”
The three-year-long investigation determined that “many” of the customers of the ID theft ring were previously deported felons, he said.
“Federal prosecutors have filed charges against three people believed to be customers of the identity theft ring, and authorities are seeking to take those individuals into custody.”
Claud Arnold, special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations division, said the case highlights the public safety threat associated with identity theft.
“Based on our evidence, this ring’s clients had good reason to want to obscure their pasts,” Arnold said. “And for a price, the defendants were allegedly willing to oblige. Our probe is ongoing and we’re aggressively pursuing all those involved.”
Jones pleaded not guilty at her initial court appearance Monday and was released on $25,000 bond, Mrozek said.
Three of the other defendants in the case, who were arrested in September, have been freed on bond pending trial, officials said. One remains in custody, and Perez remains a fugitive.
Trial is scheduled for Nov. 24.
In addition to procuring bogus ID documents, the defendants helped their clients obtain California driver licenses and identification cards under their false identities, Mrozek said. Jones allegedly altered DMV records to make it appear clients had passed written driving exams when, in fact, they hadn’t.
“This identity theft scheme was particularly insidious because it both victimized the individuals whose identities were stolen and required the active participation of a government official,” United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said. “The fact that a DMV official abused her position of authority in committing this crime is egregious since such conduct can undermine the public’s confidence in a government institution entrusted with our personal information.”

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