Ring accused of taking bribes for TX driverís licenses

By Guillermo Contreras
Published 5:53 pm, Friday, October 23, 2015

Federal and state authorities on Friday arrested a Texas Department of Public Safety employee as part of an investigation targeting a ring accused of providing driverís licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Jose A. Ytuarte
, who worked at the DPS driverís license offices in Hondo, was indicted in federal court Wednesday with two to three other suspects with conspiracy to transfer false identification documents, transfer of false ID documents and use of interstate facility (via the postal service) in aid of unlawful activity. Ytuarte, investigated by Texas Rangers and the FBI with assistance from the Border Patrol, was released Friday on $25,000 unsecured bond.

The conduct occurred between May 1, 2013, and July 10, 2015, according to the partially unsealed indictment. The names of his co-defendants are blacked out in the indictment because they are not yet in federal custody.

That case comes on the heels of one last month involving another DPS employee, Linda Ann Perez, 47, who signed a plea deal last week admitting she took $215,000 in bribes in exchange for issuing at least 144 fraudulent driverís licenses to undocumented immigrants over three years. Perez worked out of a driverís license office on South Gen. McMullen in San Antonio, and DPS discovered the illegal activity this spring.

Officials declined comment on the cases, but court records show agents with Homeland Security Investigations scrutinized Perezís case to see if potential terrorists got licenses.

ďAll of the Texas driverís licenses issued and renewed by Perez for illegal alien applicants were all of Hispanic descent,Ē her plea deal states. ďNone were special interest aliens.Ē

Perez, who worked for DPS for eight years, told investigators that she first began by-passing the stateís license system as a favor for an acquaintance, in exchange for $500. She also told agents she was not aware of anyone else at DPS that was selling driverís licenses to undocumented immigrants.

ďPerez was involved...with issuing approximately 144 fraudulent licenses to illegal aliens, which, conservatively at $1,500 a license, yielded approximately $215,000 in bribes for Perez,Ē her plea deal said.

In Ytuarteís case, one of his unnamed co-defendants charged $1,000 to $5,000 per driverís license and took or referred the immigrants to Ytuarte, who got an unspecified amount in kickbacks for the licenses, the indictment said. The immigrants did not legally qualify for the licenses.

The indictment said Ytuarte ó like Perez ó would enter into the system that the immigrant was born in the United States, which was false. The licenses would then be mailed to the immigrants.

If convicted, Ytuarte faces up to 15 years in federal prison for the transfer count and conspiracy charge, and up to five years for each of four charges of using an interstate facility to aid illegal conduct.

Records show Perez is scheduled to formally plead guilty Nov. 3 to one of three charges that she used an interstate facility to aid illegal conduct, so she can get as light a sentence as possible. Three charges, including a count of transferring false IDs, will be dismissed.