5 people plead guilty and will testify against scam’s ringleaders
Five people hired to help peddle $30,000 a month in fraudulent New Mexico driver’s licenses have agreed to testify against ringleaders who remained at large Tuesday.
Officials are asking for the public’s help in finding a Mexican couple who allegedly transported foreign nationals to Clovis and Portales and charged them up to $4,000 each for a bogus driver’s license.
Veronica Diaz, 38, a key figure in the crime ring, entered an Alford plea Monday to 47 felony counts and received a five-year suspended sentence in exchange for her promise to testify against her former employers.
“It has been a complex investigation,” said District Attorney Matthew Chandler of Clovis. The plea deals and promises of testimony ensure a strong case against the alleged ringleaders, he said.
Warrants have been issued for the arrests of Luis Raul Collazo-Medrano, 53, and his wife, Olivia Campos, age unknown, who allegedly operated a “one-stop shop for foreign nationals wanting to obtain an identity and a New Mexico driver’s license,” Chandler said.
Little is known about the couple, he said, except that they are Mexican nationals who lived illegally in the United States. They may have returned to Mexico, but also have ties to Texas, Louisiana and Ohio, he said.
The couple worked with at least five others, renting houses in Clovis and Portales to provide false residences that helped 100 to 200 foreign nationals fraudulently obtain driver’s licenses.
The scheme unraveled last year after a Brazilian woman living in Georgia called state officials and complained that she had paid $4,000 to Collazo-Medrano but failed to receive her fraudulent New Mexico driver’s license, Chandler said.
A former public notary, Diaz falsified documents showing New Mexico residency that allowed foreign nationals to obtain driver’s licenses,
“Veronica Diaz told investigators that at any given time, she would have 10 to 13 individuals arrive at her residence on the same date and wait in her living room until she produced the documents,” Chandler said.
In many cases, the foreign nationals opened bank accounts to substantiate their residency claims, he said.
Over the past 30 days, four others each pleaded guilty to multiple charges of conspiracy to commit altered, forged or fictitious licenses.
They are: Veronica Rivera, 25, Maria Rivas, 42, Brenda Vicuna, 21, and Luis Tirado, 34, all of Portales. Each received a suspended sentence or probation in exchange for a promise to testify.
Rivera and Rivas worked as drivers for the operation, picking up foreign nationals at the airport in Amarillo, Texas, and driving them to Clovis and Portales for $100 per customer, Chandler said.
Vicuna leased rented homes in her name, paid utility bills and collected mail, including fraudulent driver’s licenses that arrived at the residences, he said.
Tirado forged residential affidavits for several foreign nationals to help them obtain driver’s licenses, he said.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Collazo-Medrano or Campos is asked to call Chandler’s office at 575-769-2246.