SEATTLE – Three people have been arrested and federal authorities are still looking for a fourth, who allegedly helped sell Washington state drivers licenses and identification cards to people who didn’t qualify for them.
Department of Licensing employee Melanie Yoder was arrested at the Bellevue licensing office. She is accused of working with Rodrigo Moura, a Brazilian immigrant, supplying IDs for people from other states and other countries.
Court documents state Moura charged $3,000 for a license and paid $500 to Yoder to process the paperwork. In June 2009, Yoder issued 45 Washington drivers licenses and identification cards to people claiming to be from Brazil. DOL Representatives say that’s an abnormally high number for one employee to process from a particular country.
Charging papers state Moura picked up the applicants at the airport, gave them an address to use for the application and provided answers to test questions. He also arranged for the applicant to be processed by Yoder at the Bellevue licensing office.
An applicant wearing a recording device for the FBI participated in the process. At first, Yoder told him he’d have to return to the licensing office the next day when she is working a counter location. She told the applicant that when his number is called he should ignore the number, and then approach her counter later, indicating that his number was missed. That way, Yoder would be able to process his paperwork.
Former DOL employee Lacy Jones Jr. was also arrested in a different scam that was going on at a different office. Jones is accused of working with a Mexican citizen to provide IDs for a fee. Jones resigned from the DOL in May, after being on-leave for several months. Court documents say Jones worked with Israel Velasco Diaz. He has not been arrested.
According to court papers, Diaz charged $500 to arrange for a personal identification card and $1,500 for a driver’s license, and that he paid Jones a portion of the fee. Jones also has a criminal history, including two felony convictions for theft and robbery. DOL Representatives say they recently started running background checks on new DOL workers but they do not believe Yoder or Jones were screened.
The FBI was tipped that people from across the country were coming to Washington for documents because the state does not require proof of legal immigration. The state does require documentation of residency, and the U.S. attorney’s office said the applicants did not meet that requirement.
State Licensing Director Liz Luce said the agency has “a zero-tolerance policy for criminal or unethical activity within our agency.” “When activity like this is uncovered, we work with law enforcement to seek criminal prosecution,” she said in a written statement.