A former employee of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has pleaded guilty along with her four co-conspirators to unlawfully providing Texas driver’s licenses for cash, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno said.
Maritza De Leon, 32, of McAllen, Texas, a former employee with the driver’s licensing bureau of DPS, along with Marco Antonio Hernandez, 40, Maria Guadalupe Morales, 58, Romana Soto-Varela, 39, all of Edinburg, Texas, and San Juan De Dios Alejandro Rocha-Zuniga, aka Oscar Rocha, 36, of McAllen, Texas, on Friday admitted to working with each other to provide a Texas driver’s license to an individual under an assumed name in exchange for financial compensation in violation of federal law. Each appeared before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane and entered pleas of guilty to one count relating to one of the unauthorized issuances of a driver’s license for cash as alleged in the indictment. Judge Crane has set sentencing for Jan. 21, 2011.
In June 2010, in exchange for $10,000 Rocha provided a confidential source of information (CI) with a birth certificate and Social Security number in an assumed name and made arrangements for the CI to obtain a driver’s license. On Aug. 4, 2011, as directed, the CI applied for a driver’s license with De Leon, a DPS employee, under the assumed name. De Leon processed the application for the driver license knowing the assumed name was not the CI’s real identity. DeLeon provided Rocha the temporary driver’s license for the CI. Rocha, in turn, delivered the unauthorized license to the CI who paid $10,000 for the Texas driver’s license.
In January 2011, Hernandez offered to provide the same CI with another driver's license. On Feb. 2, 2011, Hernandez told the CI his sister, Maria Guadalupe Morales, would coordinate the deal. Morales agreed to assist the CI obtain another driver's license. On Feb. 26, 2011, the CI paid $3,000, a partial payment, to Morales for the driver's license.
On March 2, 2011, Hernandez met with a second CI (CI2), who pretended to need a driver’s license as negotiated by the first CI. Hernandez and CI2, along with Soto-Varela, drove to the DPS office in McAllen off of Bicentennial Boulevard. Soto-Varela entered the DPS office with CI2 so she could identify CI2 for De Leon. DeLeon processed CI2 for a driver's license under an assumed name knowing that was not CI2’s real identity. After the meeting at the DPS office, Hernandez provided CI2 with a temporary license provided by DeLeon under the assumed name and received the remaining $3,000 payment.
De Leon, Rocha, Hernandez, and Soto-Varela were arrested by federal and state authorities on March 2, 2011. Morales was subsequently arrested on March 7, 2011. Following her arrest, De Leon admitted to fraudulently processing the driver's licenses knowing the individuals applying for them were not doing so under their real names, thus, they were made without lawful authority. Hernandez admitted to his role in obtaining the driver's licenses and knew what he was doing was illegal. Soto-Varela admitted to escorting CI2 into the DPS office knowing she was going to be paid for her assistance.
All five defendants were indicted on March 22, 2011. With Friday's conviction, each defendant now faces a statutory punishment range of not more than 15 years and a potential fine up to $250,000 at sentencing.
Deleon and Morales, who were released on bond following their March arrests, have been permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing. Rocha and Soto-Varela, both Mexican nationals illegally in the U.S., and Hernandez are in custody without bond and will remain in custody pending sentencing.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the FBI and the Texas Rangers. Assistant U.S. Attorney Juan F. Alanis is prosecuting the case.