A man arrested last year on suspicion of helping to orchestrate a tax scam with voter information stolen from the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office pleaded guilty last week to one fourth-degree felony as part of a plea deal, according to court records.
Armando Gutiérrez-Torres, 52, of Mexico, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft on Dec. 16 before Chief District Judge Fernando R. Macias in 3rd Judicial Court in Las Cruces.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped four charges, including one count of racketeering, a second-degree felony. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
But since he was given pre-sentence credit that exceeded the 18-month prison term, he was returned to federal custody to serve the remainder of a federal sentence in a related case.
Gutiérrez-Torres — whose last name also appears as Gutiérrez-Torez in court records — was arrested in May 2015 after an investigation by the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities said he and three other suspects — including a document technician for the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office — conspired to steal voter information, including Social Security numbers, file fraudulent income tax returns with the stolen identifies, and cash the return checks.
Authorities said the scam was led by the former document technician, Maria Ceniceros, 44, of Anthony, New Mexico. Earlier this month, Ceniceros pleaded guilty to eight felonies in connection to the scam.
Ceniceros has admitted that she used her position in the clerk’s office to access voter information and facilitate the scam. She received a 12-year suspended prison sentence and five years of supervised probation.
The investigation resulted in the both state and federal charges against Ceniceros and Gutiérrez-Torres. Their federal cases had been resolved for several months before they accepted their plea agreements this month in state District Court.
In the federal cases, they were charged with conspiracy to commit theft of government property and aggravated identity. In October 2015, they pleaded guilty to the charges in federal court in Las Cruces.
In accepting his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Gutiérrez-Torres admitted that in November 2014, he asked Ceniceros for the voter identifiers of people born in 1995, which were then used to file fraudulent income tax returns.
He further admitted that he asked Ceniceros to mail fraudulent tax returns to the IRS and cash the return checks that totaled $11,963.73. He was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison in July. After completing the prison term, he will be deported to Mexico.
In June, Ceniceros was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release. She was released from prison in September.
Ceniceros’ daughter and husband also were arrested and charged with conspiring in the scam.
In October 2015, Ceniceros’ daughter, Denise Ceniceros, 25, pleaded no contest to one fourth-degree conspiracy charge. She received a conditional discharge instead of prison time.
The case against Ceniceros’ husband, Francisco Ceniceros, 48, is still pending, court records show. He was charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit fraud.