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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office Employee Arrested on Federal Theft and Identity Fraud Charges

ALBUQUERQUE – Maria L. Ceniceros, 42, of Las Cruces, N.M., made her initial appearance in federal court this morning on a criminal complaint charging her and a co-defendant with theft of government property and aggravated identity theft charges.  Ceniceros remains in federal custody pending a preliminary hearing and detention hearing which are scheduled for June 5, 2015.

The criminal complaint charges Ceniceros and Armando Gutierrez-Torres, 50, a Mexican national who resides in Delicias, Mexico, with conspiracy to commit theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.  The charges in the complaint allegedly arise out of a scheme to steal money from the United States by using the identities of individuals without their knowledge or consent to generate and cash fraudulent federal income tax refund checks.  It alleges that Ceniceros and Gutierrez-Torres conspired with each other and others to perpetuate the scheme, and that Ceniceros abused her position as a Document Technician at the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office to facilitate the scheme.

The criminal complaint alleges that the law enforcement authorities learned of the scheme in mid-May 2015, when Ceniceros allegedly approached a co-worker in the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office and attempted to solicit his participation in the scheme.  The co-worker reported the alleged solicitation to law enforcement authorities and agreed to assist officers in conducting an undercover investigation into Ceniceros and Gutierrez-Torres.  During the investigation, Ceniceros allegedly provided three fraudulent federal income tax refund checks to the co-worker so that he could cash the checks with the understanding that the proceeds would be divided between Ceniceros, Gutierrez-Torres and the co-worker.  Ceniceros and Gutierrez-Torres were arrested on related state charges on May 29, 2015.

Ceniceros was arrested on the federal charges in the criminal complaint on June 1, 2015.  Gutierrez-Torres remains in state custody and will be transferred to federal custody to face the charges in the criminal complaint.

If convicted on the theft of government property charge, Ceniceros and Gutierrez-Torres each face a statutory maximum sentence of ten years in prison.  If convicted on the aggravated identity theft charge, each faces a mandatory two-year prison sentence that must be served consecutive to any sentence imposed on the theft of government property charge.  Charges in criminal complaints are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.

This case was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation and the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark A. Saltman of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.

ceniceros_complaint.pdf (232.2 KB)

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Updated September 14, 2015