Nov. 18, 2010
THIRD DEFENDANT IN SCHEME TO OBTAIN DRIVER’S LICENSES FOR CASH CONVICTED
(HOUSTON) - A local business man involved with two Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) employees in a scheme to fraudulently obtain driver’s licenses for cash has entered a plea of guilty to conspiring to sell driver’s license documents without authorization, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
Maen Bittar, 46, of Houston, the operator of a Houston gas station, pleaded guilty this morning before U.S. District Judge Gray Miller - admitting collecting fees from individuals, such as illegal aliens, in amounts of $3000 or more to arrange with DPS employees Mark DeArza, a DPS Trooper, and Lidia Gutierrez, a DPS clerk, to process applications and receive driver’s licenses for these unqualified individuals.
According to pleadings filed in the case, the FBI - through the cooperation of a confidential informant - obtained audio and video recordings of Bittar, the owner of a Conoco gas station located on the 10500 block of Almeda-Genoa in Houston, offering to sell Texas driver’s licenses. On May 14, 2010, the informant met with Bittar at his place of business and paid Bittar $3000 for his assistance in obtaining a Texas driver’s license. Bittar called DeArza to make arrangements to purchase a Texas driver’s license for the informant. On May 17, 2010, the informant again met Bittar at the gas station. Bittar coordinated a meeting between the informant and DeArza at the DPS office located across from Ellington Field. The informant paid Bittar an additional $500. That same day, the informant met with DeArza at the DPS office. DeArza provided the informant with paperwork and directed the informant to Gutierrez. Trooper DeArza and Gutierrez assisted the FBI informant with the application for a Texas driver’s license, though each knew the issuance of the driver’s license was without authorization. The informant later received a Texas driver’s license by United States mail.
In a separate incident in July 2010, the informant approached Bittar about obtaining a commercial driver’s license for a friend. Bittar again charged $3500 for his assistance through DeArza and Gutierrez at the DPS to obtain the requested license. On July 26, 2010, the informant met Bittar at his place of business and received a temporary driver’s license issued without authorization and personally delivered by DeArza. The informant later received a Texas driver’s license by United States mail.
Bittar, DeArza and Gutierrez were indicted by a Houston grand jury in August 2010 for their roles in this scheme. DeArza, 39, of Houston, and Gutierrez, 37, of Galena Park, Texas, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge on Oct. 6, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2010, respectively. Both are pending sentencing on Jan. 7, 2011. Bittar is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 18, 2011. All three defendants face a maximum sentenced of 15 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. The defendants will remain on bond pending their respective sentencing hearings.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations and the Texas Rangers. Assistant U.S. Attorney James McAlister is prosecuting the case.
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