Six people, including a California DMV clerk in the El Monte office, are facing federal identity theft charges after prosecutors say they sold Puerto Rican birth certificates and matching Social Security numbers to people seeking new identities.
Members of the reported identity theft ring got the documents of Puerto Rico residents from an unknown source and sold them to people willing to pay up to $5,000 for new identities, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement. Many of their customers were felons previously released from jail, prosecutors said.
On Monday, Dept. of Motor Vehicles clerk Tracey Lynette Jones, 33, of Long Beach, surrendered to federal authorities and pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to various identity theft charges, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. She was released on $25,000 bond and ordered to stand trial in November.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. “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.”
Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and DMV agents last month arrested Wilfredo Montero, 36, of Los Angeles; Adolfo Maria Cruz, 47, of Corona; Roberto Ruiz, 35, of Tustin; and Jose Cruz, 49, of Corona. Cruz remains in custody, and the others have been released on bond.
The sixth defendant named in the four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Sept. 30 is Jose “Diablo” Perez, also known as Pedro Josue Figueroa-Marquez, 33, of Mexico. Authorities are still searching for him, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Prosecutors called Montero the leader of the conspiracy. In one July 2012 meeting with an undercover agent posing as a prospective customer, Montero led the agent to his garage, where he pulled out a Puerto Rican birth certificate and Social Security card hidden in a boxing glove, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.