SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County prosecutors on Thursday filed criminal charges against a former state worker who authorities say helped illegal immigrants get fraudulent Utah driver's licenses.
Evevia Nez was charged with four, third-degree felony counts of receiving or soliciting a bribe. Each charge is punishable by up to five years in prison.
The 47-year-old Kearns resident declined to comment Thursday. She remained free and had not yet been arrested.
Investigators say Nez worked at a Salt Lake City driver's license office and was paid $150 for each license she provided in 2008 and 2009. To obtain a license, people would come to Nez's window without taking the service ticket and say they had been referred to her by a third party — a man named Pablino Gomez-Plancarte, who is charged as a co-defendant in the case.
Investigators say Plancarte was being paid $1,500 by each person who sought his help obtaining a license. They say Nez told them she cut off the arrangement in 2010, telling Plancarte that license-issuing processes had changed and that if they continued, they would likely be caught.
Police uncovered the scheme in February 2010 after three people arrested in a traffic stop near Osage, Kan., had fingerprints that didn't match the names on their Utah-issued driver's licenses, court papers said. A fourth person in the car also had a fraudulent license.
Those four later identified Nez to authorities, according to court papers.
Salt Lake County's charges are tied to those four arrests, District Attorney Sim Gill said.
"I think the DEA agent was smart," Gill said of the agent who stopped the car. "He saw these four people and they looked legitimate, but he thought there was something kind of funny going on."
The agent may have been tipped off by the names on the licenses, not all of which are traditional Hispanic names, court records show.5 comments on this story
Gill said he became aware of the case as he was taking over the prosecutor's office in late 2010, but found that some follow-up was needed. An investigator interviewed Nez on Aug. 20, court papers show.
"We filed it when we felt comfortable," said Gill. "Where it was before that or what agency had it, I can't say."
Records show Nez was employed by as a commercial driver's license examiner from Oct. 26, 2002, to Nov. 10, 2010, said Jean Mills-Barber, deputy director of the department of human resources management.
Mills-Barber could not say whether Nez terminated her employment voluntarily.
It was not clear whether Plancarte had an attorney.