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Nineteen Floridians Surrender on Charges in Ongoing Investigation into Fraudulent Driver Licenses

1/10/2008

CONTACT:  Tara Klimek or Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842     

Twenty-six arrested so far, hundreds more suspected to be involved
 
MIAMI—Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the arrests this week of 19 additional Floridians accused of posing a risk to Florida’s and the nation’s security by fraudulently obtaining Florida commercial driver licenses (CDLs).  Those arrested this week surrendered, some calling in response to initial arrests last Friday.  So far, 26 individuals have been charged in the ongoing investigation, and authorities believe hundreds of individuals may be involved. Some will also face charges of insurance application fraud. 
 
Between November 2005 and April 2007, civilians who had never been in the military fraudulently obtained a United States Department of Defense waiver form.  The waiver indicated that the holder had been trained by the United States Army to operate heavy vehicles.  Some of these individuals, who had never received or completed the required training, used these fraudulently obtained CDLs to obtain either personal or commercial vehicle insurance.  
 
“This scheme posed a risk to our nation’s security and put others on the road in jeopardy because these drivers did not have the training they claimed to have,” said CFO Sink.  “I thank all of the law enforcement agencies involved for working together to protect Floridians and our nation.”
 
CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), said that today’s arrests follow an investigation by DIF, the U.S. Department of Defense - Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Florida Department of Transportation Motor Carrier Compliance Office.
 
Steven Baez, a sergeant with the Army National Guard stationed at the Homestead Air Reserve Base in Homestead, sold each waiver form, Operator Qualification Record DA FORM 348-E, for as little as $400 and as much as $1,300.   Baez pled guilty in October to one count of conspiracy to cause the production of false identification documents and two counts of bribery of a public official and faces up to 15 years in prison.  His sentencing is scheduled for January 16, 2008, before U.S. District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke.  Today’s arrests are being prosecuted in Miami-Dade County and sentences upon conviction could range from five to 10 years in prison.
 
“These arrests clearly demonstrate our commitment to thwarting identity theft and document fraud,” said Anthony Mangione, special agent-in-charge of ICE investigations in Miami. “Document fraud involves efforts to obtain genuine identity documents through fraudulent means and the alteration of valid documents to be used for fraudulent purposes. Identity and document fraud pose a clear national security threat and we will continue working tirelessly to identify, arrest and bring to justice those involved in these illegal schemes."
Special Agent in Charge Christopher Amato, of the Pentagon's Criminal Investigative Service, Southeast Field Office, stated, "The fraudulent use of Department of Defense resources by a military member to violate the integrity of our infrastructure is taken very seriously by the DCIS.  The DCIS will continue to play a vital role in the ongoing efforts to better secure and protect our nation from both external threats and internal corruption."
 
Anyone who purchased one of these fraudulent waivers or has additional information is urged to cooperate with the investigation by calling DIF Lt. Bill Santner at 305-536-0355.
 
Those who surrendered this week are:
ALEGRIA, CARLOS – DOB 10/22/1974, Miami
CASTRO, SERGIO – DOB 1/19/1980, Hialeah
ESPINOZA, STEVEN - DOB 1/21/1968, Ft. Myers
FERNANDEZ, RAUL – DOB 2/13/1959, Miami
GOMEZ-PRESNO, ALEXANDER – DOB 4/14/1977, Miami
HORTA, RENE – DOB 10/8/1963, Miami
PENADO, JOSE ROLANDO – DOB 5/14/1974, Homestead
NIETO, YUNIER  – DOB 8/13/1984, Hialeah
PICON, LUSI MARIA  – DOB 10/7/1967, Homestead
PUENTES, ANXEL – DOB 12/13/1985, Miami
PUENTES, JUAN BARBAR – DOB 9/21/1973, Opa Locka
RODRIGUEZ, EDUARDO – DOB 6/24/1972, Miami
RODRIGUEZ, ERNESTO – DOB 5/2/1945, Homestead
RODRIGUEZ, VICTOR – DOB 11/16/1981, Homestead
RODRIGUEZ, YOSIEL – DOB 7/7/1983, Miami
SIAN FABIO, JOSE A. – 8/25/1966, Homestead
VANEGAS, PEDRO – DOB 10/1/1973, Homestead
VASALLO, ROMAN MARIANO – DOB 4/30/1963, Mayo
VIEYRA, ANTONIO – DOB 6/13/1964, Homestead
 
These individuals were booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail.
 
Those arrested on Friday were:  
                                             
DIAZ, GREGORY – DOB 11/27/1984, Miami
DIAZ, LINA BELKIS - DOB 12/19/1964, Miami
DIAZ, LUIS ENRIQUE - DOB 4/12/1969, Miami
FERNANDEZ, JOSE – DOB 12/19/1983, Homestead
MONTESINO, JESUS LUIS - DOB 8/15/1959, Miami
RAMOS, ADALBERTO – DOB 11/28/1967, Miami
RAMOS, JACINTO – DOB 9/11/1968, Homestead
 
These individuals were booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. CFO Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.