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Feds: 187 illegal immigrants paid up to $3,000 for driver's licenses

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nancy Brown, a Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles employee, is arrested
  • Federal authorities say she took money from illegal immigrants to get them licenses
  • She was caught in a bribery probe involving Immigrations and Customs Enforcement
  • This is the latest effort targeting driver's licenses for illegal immigrants

(CNN) -- After being accused of taking thousands from illegal immigrants in exchange for driver's licenses, a Nevada state employee might be forced to pay a hefty price after being nabbed in a multi-agency inquiry.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Monday the results of their federal bribery investigation centered on Nancy Brown, a 28-year-old Las Vegas native.

An anonymous tip into the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles' compliance division sparked the investigation in September 2010, with the caller alleging that two people had illegally gotten driver's licenses through one of the agency's employees. The resulting joint probe eventually involved members of the State Department and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, which describes itself as "the principal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security."

According to Homeland Security's news release, illegal immigrants would go to a Las Vegas DMV office and wait in the lobby near Brown, a DMV technician. The federal agency said she'd then call them over to her station and fill out their "fraudulent paperwork" -- even though they didn't provide required documents to prove they were eligible for a driver's license. After taking their pictures and paying their fees, the people walked off with temporary licenses, the release said.

Authorities estimate that Brown processed 187 such illicit driver's licenses, charging between $1,700 and $3,000 for each one.

The complaint against Brown was filed April 29, and she was arrested on Thursday. The next day, she was in court to face a federal program bribery charge. U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr. released her on a personal recognizance bond, the Homeland Security Department said in its release.

"Trafficking in counterfeit document poses a serious security vulnerability, one that often contributes to a host of crimes -- including identity theft and financial fraud," said Angel Marcial, an ICE assistant special agent, in the statement on Brown's case.

CNN called the federal public defender representing Brown on Monday evening, seeking her client's response to the allegations, but hasn't received a reply.

This is the latest but hardly the only case involving people fraudulently getting driver's licenses. Earlier this spring, police arrested 11 bus drivers around New York area suspected of using phony aliases to get driver's licenses, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a news release.

New Mexico has also seen several such investigations.

In February, Gov. Susana Martinez said in a statement that state and federal investigators there arrested five illegal nationals of Indian descent and accused them of charging people $6,000 to illegally obtain a New Mexico driver's license. Investigators claim that the men helped these people get fake documents so they could fulfill requirements to get a license.

And in 2008, another Nevada DMV employee -- Marilyn Millender, then 52 and also from Las Vegas -- was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that she solicited and took money from illegal immigrants in exchange for driver's licenses and identity cards. After a plea agreement, she was sentenced to three years of probation and forced to pay a $1,000 fine, according to a federal court document.

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