'Middleman' testifies in license scam trial
Article Launched: 12/19/2006 02:58:58 PM EST

BRIDGEPORT — A city barber admitted Monday that he acted as a middleman in a scheme to sell driver's licenses to illegal aliens.

Testifying through an interpreter, Hector Portillo told a Superior Court jury that he collected between $2,500 and $3,000 from each illegal alien and turned the money over to former DMV examiner Jannette Rodriguez-Roman. In return, he said, Rodriguez-Roman gave him a cut of the proceeds.

Under questioning by Assistant State's Attorney John Malone, Portillo admitted he was responsible for helping get 10 illegal aliens driver's licenses. Rodriguez-Roman is on trial before a six-member jury accused of selling driver's licenses to illegal aliens between October 2003 and March 18, 2004.

She is charged with violating the state Corrupt Organizations Racketeering Act and multiple counts of bribery, receiving bribes, conspiracy to receive bribes and second-degree forgery.

Portillo said Rodriguez-Roman used to come into his East Main Street barbershop to have her hair cut by his daughter. He said one day while she was in the shop, "She told me if I knew anybody who needed a license she would get it."

Although witnesses have claimed Portillo solicited them in Seaside Park for licenses, he denied this. He said he agreed to help a former client get a license and "then the word got around."

He later said he would take "clients" to the local DMV office where Rodriguez-Roman was working. Once there, he said, he called her on his cell phone and described to her what the "client" looked like. He would then hand the client a driver's license application form and a printed number enabling them to go to the front of the line.

Portillo said he would later meet Rodriguez-Roman after work where he would hand her the money.

Under cross-examination by Rodriguez-Roman's lawyer, Robert Serafinowicz, Portillo said he has been arrested for his part in the scheme and intends to plead guilty to the charges. He denied that the state made any promises to him in exchange for his testimony.

Daniel Tepfer, who covers state courts and law enforcement issues, can be reached at 330-6308.