Texas Public Safety: Security For Sale

10/9/10

Our driver’s licenses, no matter how laden with our biometrics or RFID chips will always be no more strong or  secure than the weakest link- people.   However, they might get a bit  more expensive to buy…..

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HOUSTON—Two now former DPS employees have entered pleas of guilty to selling driver’s license documents to unqualified applications, United States Attorney Jose Angel Moreno announced today.

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper Mark DeArza, 39, of Houston, and DPS clerk Lidia Gutierrez, 37, of Galena Park, Texas, have been convicted of conspiring to sell Texas driver’s licenses to unqualified applicants for a fee after pleading guilty to the charge before United States District Judge Gray Miller. DeArza pleaded guilty today while Gutierrez pleaded guilty on Sept. 30, 2010. Each now faces a maximum of 15 years imprisonment to be followed by a three year term of supervised release as well as a possible maximum fine of $250,000. Judge Gray has set sentencing for both DeArza and Gutierrez for Jan. 7, 2011. Both have been permitted to remain on bond pending their respective sentencing hearings.

DeArza and Gutierrrez were charged by indictment in August 2010 along with Maen Bittar, 46, the operator of a gasoline station on Almeda-Genoa street in Houston, who allegedly acted as a middle man in the conspiracy to sell Texas driver’s licenses to unqualified applicants for a fee. Bittar is pending trial later this month and is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

At their respective re-arraignment hearings, DeArza and Gutierrez, both of whom were employed at the DPS office located across from Ellington Field at all times relevant to the charges, admitted to having conspired together and with others and agreeing to and making the necessary arrangements to sell driver’s licenses to unauthorized persons on May 14, 2010 and again on July 26, 2010.

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