Aug. 31, 2010
DPS TROOPER, DPS CLERK AND AN ALLEGED MIDDLE MAN CHARGED WITH CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT IDENTIFICATION DOCUMENT FRAUD
(HOUSTON) – An sealed indictment charging two Department of Public Safety (DPS) employees and an alleged middle man for their alleged involvement in selling Texas driver’s licenses to unqualified persons has been unsealed, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
The indictment, returned by a Houston grand jury on Aug. 25, 2010, charges Mark DeArza, 39, a DPS trooper, Lidia Gutierrez, 37, a DPS clerk, and Maen Bittar, 46, the alleged broker/middle man of the scheme and manager of a gasoline station located on Almeda-Genoa, are charged with conspiring with one another to produce identification documents - Texas driver’s licenses - without lawful authority and without valid supporting documentation from unqualified applicants for a fee. DeArza and Bittar reside in Houston. Gutierrez resides in Galena Park, Texas.
The indictment was unsealed today following their arrests. All three have made their initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge John Froeschner and have been released on $50,000 bond pending trial.
According to allegations in the indictment, between March 2010 through Aug. 25, 2010, Bittar collected fees from individuals including illegal aliens in the amount of $3000 or more for assistance in obtaining Texas driver’s licenses. Bittar would direct the individual to the DPS Office located across from Ellington Field on old Galveston Road near Clear Lake, Texas, and notify DeArza. At the DPS office, DeArza and Gutierrez would assist the unqualified individual with the processing of an application for a Texas driver’s license despite the fact that the applicant did not present the required valid supporting identification documentation or pass a written or driving test. DeArza would allegedly deliver the resultant temporary driver’s license to Bittar who would in turn deliver it to the unqualified applicant.
Conspiracy to commit fraud relating to identification documents carries a maximum term of prison of 15 years and a $250,0000 fine.
The investigation was conducted by the newly formed FBI led Houston Law Enforcement Border Corruption Task Force consisting of the Department of Homeland Security - Office of Inspector General; U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Internal Affairs; Texas Rangers; Internal Revenue Service; Transportation Security Administration - Office of Inspections and the Coast Guard Investigative Service.
“The Department of Public Safety aggressively pursues all allegations of criminal misconduct by its employees,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “I applaud the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our Texas Rangers in this joint investigation.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney James McAlister is prosecuting the case.
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