LAS CRUCES – A Mexican national was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Las Cruces to 21 months in prison for his role in a scheme that used stolen identities from Doña Ana County voters to collect nearly $12,000 in fraudulent tax returns.
Armando Gutiérrez-Torres, 51, was sentenced as part of an agreement in which he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft of public money and conspiracy to commit aggravated identity theft.
Gutiérrez-Torres was arrested in May 2015. The scheme involved several employees from the Clerk’s Office, including Maria Ceniceros, a former document technician who authorities say used her position to access voter information and file fraudulent income tax returns with the stolen identities.
Ceniceros, 44, also was arrested in May 2015, along with her daughter and husband, who were both charged in the scheme. Ceniceros has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft of public money and conspiracy to commit aggravated identity theft. Last month, she was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
In accepting his plea agreement in October, Gutiérrez-Torres admitted that he asked Ceniceros in November 2014 for the voter identifiers of people born in 1995, which were then used to file fraudulent federal income tax returns.
He also admitted that he asked Ceniceros to mail fraudulent tax returns to the IRS and cash return checks in the amount of $11,963.73.
Ceniceros has previously admitted that she took identifying information from 111 people, including their names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.
After Gutiérrez-Torres completes his prison sentence, he will be deported to Mexico, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
But he and Ceniceros are still facing state charges. Both were indicted by a Doña Ana County grand jury on those charges in June 2015.
Gutiérrez-Torres is charged with one count of racketeering, a second-degree felony, and three counts of conspiracy, each fourth-degree felonies. He also is charged with one misdemeanor count of money laundering. Ceniceros is charged with 123 counts, including 113 counts of identity theft, a fourth degree felony. She also is charged with racketeering, fraud, forgery and conspiracy.
Their trials have been scheduled to begin on Sept. 19 in 3rd Judicial District Court in Las Cruces, court records show.