Three leaders of a Chinese crime ring that used fraudulent documents to secure New Mexico driver's licenses for over 60 illegal immigrants from out of state are facing over 1,150 counts of felony charges. An Albuquerque grand jury today returned indictments against Gordon Leong, Tin Cheung and Alex Cheung on 386 counts each on charges of fraud, forgery, conspiracy, making false affidavit perjury, and altered, forged or fictitious licenses.
"We have long known of fraud and abuse in our driver's license system and these latest indictments make it clear that we must address the problem," said Governor Martinez. "We are attracting criminals to our state who exploit our driver's license policy and threaten the safety and security of all New Mexicans. I applaud the hard work that went into cracking down on this particular fraud ring, but that is only a stopgap measure until we repeal the law that invites this criminal activity once and for all."
"We strive hard to hold all criminal offenders accountable. When people come into our state and violate our laws, they are deserving of our best efforts. This is just another example of our commitment," said District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.
State Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla added, "Existing state law has clearly made our driver's licenses less secure and now we're contributing to the public safety problems of other states as more and more out-of-state illegal immigrants and criminal elements are coming here to get driver's licenses and leave."
The three men are accused of running newspaper advertisements in Chinese newspapers in New York, promising New Mexico driver's licenses. They leased multiple apartments simultaneously in Albuquerque and secured driver's licenses for 62 illegal immigrants of Chinese descent, primarily from New York, for $1,500 each between March 2009 and November 2010. Tin and Alex Cheung also notarized residential and lease agreement documents fraudulently for their customers. The illegal immigrants flew intoAlbuquerque from New York, obtained their driver's permits and left the State. The ringleaders had the actual driver's licenses mailed to an address in Albuquerque and then forwarded to their clients in New York.
The New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division has cancelled all the driver's licenses issued in this case after the arrest of Leong and three of his customers in November 2010. Three customers - Fongyee Hiew, Shu Sheng Liu and Sui Lam - who flew in from New York to obtain New Mexico licenses and have also been indicted on 16 counts each on charges of fraud, forgery, conspiracy, making false affidavit perjury, and altered, forged or fictitious licenses.
Arrest warrants have been issued for both Tin and Alex Cheung.
Prior Driver License Schemes:
In October 2010, State Police arrested two Chinese nationals accused of being part of an illegal driver's license scheme at an MVD office in Santa Fe. Shunxian Feng, 33, flew in from China for the sole purpose of getting a driver's license. Workers at MVD became suspicious after seeing Feng with Shu Juan Liu, whom
workers had noticed at MVD several times. Shu Juan Liu fled, but Feng and Yue Xian Liu, 50, were arrested and charged with conspiracy and forging a fictitious license.
In September 2010, State Police arrested a Costa Rican national- Adolfo J. Mora-Granados, 23 -- in Albuquerque for his suspected role in helping four illegal immigrants obtain driver's licenses. He is accused of using fake lease agreements to get the immigrants licenses. He was charged with four counts of conspiracy and six counts of forgery.
In September 2010, State Police arrested a Brazilian man - Christian Sobral - who tried getting two other Brazilians licenses in Albuquerque. Sobral was paid $3,000 to fly in the Brazilians and help them get licenses. He was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony.
In July 2010, a 32-year-old Illinois man was arrested after helping two undocumented Polish immigrants who live in Illinois get licenses in Albuquerque.
Jaroslaw Kowalczyk, who pleaded guilty in federal court for transporting illegal immigrants, charged the immigrants $1,000 each to drive them to New Mexico and get them forged documents.
In March 2011, a Santa Fe grand jury indicted four illegal foreign nationals of East Indian descent from Chicago, including the ring leader who is accused of charging $6,000 per individual to fraudulently obtain a New Mexico driver's license. The ring leader Siraj A. "Sunny" Poonawala, 55. The same grand jury a
week before also indicted his clients Sanjay Kumar G. Patel, 24; Bhavesh Kumar M. Prajapati, 27; and Hitesh Kumar A. Patel, 24; on charges of conspiracy and altered, forged or fictitious license.
In August 2011, An Albuquerque grand jury indicted Ana Hernandez on over 300 counts of felony charges for creating fake residency documents so illegal immigrants could obtain New Mexico drivers' licenses. She helped 43 illegal immigrants of Mexican descent obtain New Mexico driver's licenses.