Former Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office Employee Sentenced to Prison for Federal Theft and Identity Fraud Conviction
ALBUQUERQUE – Maria L. Ceniceros, 43, of Anthony, N.M., was sentenced today in federal court in Las Cruces, N.M., to 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for her theft of government property and aggravated identity theft conviction.
Ceniceros and co-defendant Armando Gutierrez-Torres, 51, a Mexican national, were charged in June 2015, with conspiracy to commit theft of government property and aggravated identity theft in a criminal complaint. The charges in the complaint arose 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. According to the criminal complaint, 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.
Law enforcement authorities learned of the scheme in mid-May 2015, when Ceniceros 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 solicitation to law enforcement authorities and agreed to assist officers in conducting an undercover investigation into Ceniceros and Gutierrez-Torres. During the investigation, Ceniceros 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.
On April 27, 2016, Ceniceros pled guilty to a felony information charging her with conspiracy to commit theft of public money and conspiracy to commit aggravated identity theft. Ceniceros admitted that she accessed the Voter Registration database at work and recorded the names, dates of birth and social security numbers of 111 people whose identities she knew were going to be used to file fraudulent federal income tax returns in order to obtain fraudulent refund checks, she also agreed to mail fraudulent federal income tax returns and cash refund checks for Gutierrez-Torres.
On Oct. 13, 2015, Gutierrez-Torres entered a guilty plea to a felony information charging him with conspiracy to commit theft of public money and conspiracy to commit aggravated identity theft. Gutierrez-Torres admitted that in Nov. 2014, he asked Ceniceros for the identifiers of people born in 1995, to be used to file fraudulent federal income tax returns in order to obtain fraudulent refund checks. Gutierrez-Torres further admitted that he asked Ceniceros to mail fraudulent federal income tax returns to the IRS and to cash refund checks in the total amount of $11,963.73. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Gutierrez-Torres will be sentenced to 24 months in prison. He will be deported following his term of imprisonment. A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.
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.