Oct. 6, 2010
DPS TROOPER AND DPS CLERK CONVICTED OF SELLING DRIVER’S LICENSES
(HOUSTON) -- Two now former DPS employees have entered pleas of guilty to selling driver’s license documents to unqualified applications, United States Attorney Jose Angel Moreno announced today.
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper Mark DeArza, 39, of Houston, and DPS clerk Lidia Gutierrez, 37, of Galena Park, Texas, have been convicted of conspiring to sell Texas driver’s licenses to unqualified applicants for a fee after pleading guilty to the charge before United States District Judge Gray Miller. DeArza pleaded guilty today while Gutierrez pleaded guilty on Sept. 30, 2010. Each now faces a maximum of 15 years imprisonment to be followed by a three year term of supervised release as well as a possible maximum fine of $250,000. Judge Gray has set sentencing for both DeArza and Gutierrez for Jan. 7, 2011. Both have been permitted to remain on bond pending their respective sentencing hearings.
DeArza and Gutierrrez were charged by indictment in August 2010 along with Maen Bittar, 46, the operator of a gasoline station on Almeda-Genoa street in Houston, who allegedly acted as a middle man in the conspiracy to sell Texas driver’s licenses to unqualified applicants for a fee. Bittar is pending trial later this month and is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.
At their respective re-arraignment hearings, DeArza and Gutierrez, both of whom were employed at the DPS office located across from Ellington Field at all times relevant to the charges, admitted to having conspired together and with others and agreeing to and making the necessary arrangements to sell driver’s licenses to unauthorized persons on May 14, 2010 and again on July 26, 2010.
According to the public record of the case, the FBI learned through a confidential source of information (CS) that the operator of a Conoco station located on Almeda-Genoa Street in Houston was allegedly selling Texas driver’s licenses for a fee. On two separate occasions, first on May 14, 2010, then again on July 26, the CS met with the operator of the gasoline station and allegedly paid him $3000 for assistance in obtaining a Texas driver’s license and $3500 for assistance with obtaining a commercial driver’s license for a friend. In the first instance, the CS was referred to and met with DeArza at the DPS office on May 17, 2010, and with his assistance and that of Gutierrez, obtained a Texas driver’s license which he was unauthorized to receive. In the second instance, the CS sought a commercial driver’s license for a friend. The CS allegedly paid $3500 for the arrangements to be made with DeArza and Gutierrez to obtain this driver’s license as well. On July 26, 2010, at the gasoline station, the CS received a temporary driver’s license personally delivered by DeArza. The CS later received both Texas driver’s licenses by United States mail.
The investigation leading to the charges against DeArza and Gutierrez 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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