Investigators checking the validity of Disabled Persons Parking Placards on vehicle parked outside the L.A. County Fair last weekend issued 71 tickets for fraudulently using the parking passes, authorities said.
California Department of Motor Vehicle investigators conducted the enforcement crackdown on Sunday outside the Fairplex at Pomona, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., aided by Pomona police and Fairplex administrators, DMV officials said in a written statement.
Of more than 371 placards examined, more than 300 of them, or 81 percent, were found to be valid, officials said. By 71 of them were being used fraudulently, resulting in citations.
“We want to make sure drivers who are parking in blue disabled parking spots are doing so legally,” according to DMV Investigations Chief Frank Alvarez. “We are constantly carrying out enforcement efforts throughout
the state to deter people from breaking the law and improve access for those with limited mobility.”
Pomona Police Chief Paul Capraro echoed the sentiment, adding that it benefits those who truly need to use Disabled Persons Parking Placards.
“I know for a fact that individuals who need designated disabled parking spots appreciate this effort,” the chief said. “We recognize the importance of making disabled parking available to those with valid placards and the Pomona Police Department plans to collaborate with the DMV on future enforcement efforts.”
Those caught using the placards fraudulently face fines ranging from $250 to $1,000, and will have the violation noted on their driving records.
DMV officials pointed out that not all disabilities are visible, and allegations of improper use of Disables Persons Parking Placards could ultimately found to be unfounded.
“The majority of Californians who apply for one have legitimate reasons for doing so, according to the statement.
“The level of reported or observed misuse of disabled parking placards varies from area to area,” the statement continued. “Most violations involve people using disabled parking placards issued to family or friends to avoid paying parking fees, as well as obtaining convenient and/or unrestricted parking.”
DMV investigators have issued 1,062 citations between April 1 and Aug. 31 during similar crackdowns state-wide, officials added.
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.”