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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

Friday, March 1, 2013

St. Joseph Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy; more than 100 Illegal Aliens used False ID to Obtain Licenses


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a St. Joseph, Mo., woman has pleaded guilty in federal court to her role in a conspiracy to provide false identity documents so that more than 100 illegal immigrants could fraudulently obtain driver’s and non-driver’s licenses from the license office in St. Joseph, which is operated by a contractor for the Missouri Department of Revenue.

Isabel Ramirez Mendoza, 62, of St. Joseph, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 to participating in a conspiracy to unlawfully produce identification documents, to unlawfully transfer the means of identification of another person and to commit Social Security fraud. Mendoza also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft.

Illegal aliens traveled across the United States to obtain licenses at the St. Joseph license office by using unlawfully obtained birth certificates and Social Security cards. It is estimated that well over 100 Missouri licenses have been unlawfully issued to illegal aliens as part of this conspiracy.

Mendoza admitted that she assisted well over 100 illegal aliens in fraudulently obtaining Missouri driver’s and non-driver’s licenses from July 2010 until Jan. 10, 2012. Mendoza and others (including family members, such as her minor son) escorted illegal aliens into the St. Joseph license office under the guise of serving as translators.

Mendoza charged a fee, typically $100, for assisting the illegal aliens to obtain a Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s license that was in the name of another person who was listed on unlawfully obtained birth certificates and Social Security cards. Mendoza also referred illegal aliens to co-conspirators who could assist them in obtaining identification documents that could be used to fraudulently obtain Missouri non-driver’s licenses. The illegal aliens were usually charged between $500 and $950 for the document sets and the Missouri driver’s and non-driver’s licenses.

Mendoza assisted illegal aliens in preparing for potential questions from the license office employees, such as learning the names on the birth certificates, the names of the parents on the birth certificates, the dates of birth, and the Social Security numbers.

Mendoza knew the vast majority, if not all, of the illegal aliens she helped had stolen the identity of American citizens to fraudulently obtain Missouri non-driver’s licenses. Illegal aliens could later use these fraudulently obtained Missouri non-driver’s licenses as evidence of authorized stay or employment in the United States. The illegal aliens could also potentially use these identification documents to fraudulently obtain credit in the name of another person or to further other fraudulent schemes.

Sometime between June 22, 2009, and Nov. 2, 2011, Mendoza approached co-defendant Thomas Richard McNamara III, 26, of St. Joseph, who was an employee at the St. Joseph license office. She asked McNamara to accept identification documents he was not supposed to accept and issue Missouri driver’s or non-driver’s licenses to individuals who were escorted by her and others. In exchange, she offered to pay McNamara a fee of approximately $50 to $100 for each time he issued a license he was not supposed to issue due to the inadequate documentation of their true identity.

McNamara pleaded guilty on Dec. 11, 2012 to his role in the conspiracy. According to McNamara, it was common knowledge among the employees at the license office that co-conspirators were assisting illegal aliens to obtain licenses.

McNamara admitted that he accepted improper documents approximately two to three times a week, but he didn’t do this every week. Mendoza often called McNamara before bringing aliens to the license office to make sure he would be working and to let him know they were bringing in clients. McNamara then met with Mendoza on numerous occasions during non-work hours at locations other than the licensing office to receive payment.

Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Mendoza must forfeit $125,000 to the government as well as several vehicles that have been seized by the government because they were used to transport illegal aliens and to further the conspiracy, including a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado, a 2009 Dodge Ram and a 2005 Dodge Durango.

Mendoza is subject to a mandatory two-year term of imprisonment for aggravated identity theft that must run consecutively to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole for the conspiracy, plus a fine up to $500,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Alford. It was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, the Buchanan County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the St. Joseph, Mo., Police Department, the Platte County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Missouri Department of Revenue Investigation Bureau, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Updated January 12, 2015