LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Four more people have been indicted as alleged brokers of fraudulent driver’s licenses in an increasingly widening investigation into corruption within the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
A federal grand jury indictment in June of 2020 only charged 52-year-old Rogelio Zazueta of Huntington Park with aiding and abetting. Wednesday’s superseding indictment added 58-year-old Carlos Alberto Zea Londono of Granada Hills, 50-year-old Eudelia Lopez Martinez of South Los Angeles, and 54-year-old Arestakes Khachikyan, aka “Aries,” of Granada Hills.READ MORE: Person Found Dead Wedged In Overpass 'Void Space'
According to the indictment, Londono and Lopez acted as brokers between April and October 2016, negotiating cash payments between $400 and $1,400 people would pay to fraudulently receive passing scores on the written test or driving test in order to get a California driver’s license. Then each applicant’s personal information and their cash bribes would be passed on to the scheme’s ringleader – 46-year-old Atancio Villegas, aka “A.T.”, a former license registration examiner at the DMV office in Torrance now living in Porrtales, New Mexico. Villegas would then turn to current California DMV employees who also took cash bribes to input the fraudulent information into the DMV’s database, unlawfully issuing instructional permits or driver’s licenses to the ineligible applicants, according to federal prosecutors.
More than 100 driver’s licenses are believed to have been illegally issued through this scheme, federal prosecutors said.READ MORE: Bus Priority Lanes Launched On Grand Avenue And Olive Street In Downtown LA
Zazueta is accused of aiding and abetting the unlawful production of a California ID in July 2016, telling the person he had connections at the Torrance DMV and could get a license for $1,200. That person was issued a driver’s permit, without ever taking a written test, according to the affidavit. Khachikyan has also been charged with aiding and abetting the unlawful production of a California ID in July 2016 on behalf of a person who was issued an instructional permit thanks to a DMV employee who entered passing scores on a required test on that person’s behalf.
The investigation into California DMV bribery began with the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service looking into fraudulent identification documents used by truckers to get into secure and restricted areas of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. Sixteen people were convicted in that investigation, which identified several corrupt DMV employees who were fraudulently issuing California driver’s licenses.
Villagas, the ringleader, has admitted he and other DMV employees accepted cash bribes several times per week from ineligible drivers, who were directed to the window of a corrupt DMV employee with an “identifier” such as a red hat, according to prosecutors. Villegas is scheduled to plead guilty on June 21 to honest services mail fraud.
Earlier this week, 44-year-old Jovana Tameka Nettles of Norwalk – the former manager of Lincoln Park’s DMV office — pleaded guilty to three counts of honest services wire fraud, admitting to entering passing scores and issuing permits to people who had not taken or passed the required tests. Nettles is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 23.MORE NEWS: Skipping The Line For A Price: Disney Debuts New Genie Plus Service
The investigation has also ensnared 37-year-old Taliesha Shunte Raliff of Gardena, a former Torrance DMV employee, who pleaded guilty in August 2020 to soliciting and accepting bribes; and 63-year-old Otto Escobar of Granada Hills, the former operator of OK Driving School in Van Nuys. Escobar pleaded guilty in November 2020, admitting that from 2015 to 2017 he charged his customers a fee to get a passing DMV score, then used the money to bribe DMV employees to commit the fraud, prosecutors said. Escobar is scheduled to be sentenced on June 7.