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Woman charged in phony vehicle insurance scheme

October 20, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Police charged a Martinsburg woman Wednesday with making fake insurance cards and selling them to Hispanic residents, according to court records.

Barbara Lynn Gonzalez, 46, of 1201/2 Five Point Ave., was charged with two felony counts of false affidavits in connection with the case, which police have been investigating for months.

West Virginia State Police Trooper Nathan Harmon launched an investigation May 22 after a confidential informant provided detailed information about the alleged activities.

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The informant said the fake insurance cards - made using home computer equipment and a typewriter - were sold for $400 to $600 each and that Gonzalez would go to the Division of Motor Vehicles office in Martinsburg the following day to obtain license plates using the cards, records allege.

On May 23, Harmon sat at the back of the DMV and saw Gonzalez and her daughter inside. Harmon alleges he saw Gonzalez exchange paperwork with a DMV employee and receive two license plates in return, according to a four-page criminal complaint filed by Harmon.

Harmon - who already knew that Gonzalez's driver's license had been suspended - pulled Gonzalez's Ford pickup truck over outside of the DMV because the license plate on the pickup truck was obscured. He was given permission to search the truck and also searched Gonzalez's home, records state.

At the home, officers seized several items, including computer printers and scanners, a hard drive, CDs for a computer and a typewriter ribbon that Gonzalez had tried to conceal from police, records allege.

Police also found 55 insurance cards from three different insurance companies, five West Virginia registration cards bearing Hispanic names, five West Virginia vehicle titles, 12 vehicle titles bearing Hispanic names, 58 DMV applications for a certificate for title and six pink DMV affidavits of a duplicate title, records state.

Gonzalez told police that she goes to the DMV nearly every day and said "she has done over 30 insurance cards, titles, and tags for various Hispanics," records state.

Gonzalez said that Hispanics would come to her house with a vehicle title and pay her $50 for a fake insurance card, records state. She told police she would fill out a DMV application for a certificate of title for a motor vehicle, go to the DMV and give the paperwork to a specific employee. She would receive a valid title, registration card and license plate, records state.

An employee of one of the insurance agencies whose cards were used, Mid-Atlantic Group, said complaints had been filed concerning wrecks and fake insurance policy numbers. All of the fake policy numbers began with the letters "NCA," the employee said, according to court records.

"Sr. Tpr. Harmon then noted that every single insurance card seized from the defendant's residence, including DMV forms the defendant had filled out, began with the letters 'NCA,' confirming that the policy numbers and insurance information the defendant provided (to the) DMV on every application so as to receive tags, titles and registrations were fake," records state.

The insurance company employee said that complaints starting coming in in October 2004, and that so many had been received that she filed a report with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

Gonzalez was being held in Eastern Regional Jail on $50,000 bail. Conviction on a charge of false affidavit carries a sentence of one to 10 years in prison.

Earlier this year, in Chambersburg, Pa., two illegal immigrants were charged with selling forged identity cards.

Richard Bravo-Rivera, 35, of 818 S. Fourth St., was charged with 11 misdemeanor counts of identity theft, stemming from 95 pieces of evidence seized during a search of his home, including six Social Security cards under various names, two New Jersey identification cards, a Mexican driver's license and two resident alien cards.

Pablo Olvera-Uribe, 34, of 368 W. Loudon St., was arrested on three felony forgery charges.

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