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Press Release

“Wholesaler” of fake tags sentenced for selling hundreds of thousands of illegal Texas paper tags

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON – A 43-year-old woman has been sentenced for providing false information in order to access the state database to print illegal tags and then sell them to other sellers on the internet, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Leidy Hernandez Lopez pleaded guilty May 10, 2023, to conspiring with others residing in the Southern District of Texas and elsewhere, to buy and sell thousands of fraudulent Texas-issued temporary buyer tags for cars in and outside of Texas without a legitimate vehicle purchase.

U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks Jr. has now ordered Lopez to serve 30 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. The court also ordered Hernandez Lopez to pay restitution to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles in the amount of $316,820. 

At the hearing, the court heard how she and others engaged in a widespread fraud to use fictitious car dealerships to generate and sell Texas temporary buyer tags without actually selling cars. In handing down the sentence, the court noted that while Lopez may not have known what the consequences of her actions were, she nonetheless placed peoples’ lives at risk by providing fake tags that were used in crimes such as drive by shootings. 

“The harm in this case was more than monetary,” said Hamdani. “In selling fake vehicle tags to other sellers, Lopez provided criminals with the means to create ghost cars that were invisible to law enforcement which were used to commit crimes that posed a hazard to the public ranging from driving without insurance to committing robberies and drive-by shootings.”

Lopez and co-conspirators used the internet to buy and sell the fraudulent state-issued buyer tags and exchange proceeds from the illegal tag sales.

At the time of her plea, Lopez acknowledged she and her co-conspirators communicated via email where she would deliver fraudulent buyer tags to sellers who then re-sold them to purchasers all over the United States, including New York, Florida and Washington, D.C.

She also admitted she received fraud proceeds via electronic payment services such as Cash App and Zelle.

Lopez was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Emmanuel Padilla Reyes aka Christian Hernandez Bonilla or Noel Rivera is still a fugitive in this case. The FBI is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone providing information that directly leads to his arrest. Those with information about the fugitive’s location should call 1-800-CALL-FBI or email www.TIPS.FBI.GOV

The FBI conducted the investigation with assistance of Travis County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office, Houston Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police and New York City Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Belinda Beek and Adam Goldman prosecuted the case.

Updated February 5, 2024

Financial Fraud