HOUSTON – More charges have been filed in the fraudulent paper license plate scheme involving fake car dealerships who issued more than 700,000 illegitimate paper tags, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery.
Law enforcement arrested Daniel Rocky Christine-Tani, 33, Sugar Land, today. He is expected to make his initial appearance at 10 a.m. tomorrow before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Sheldon.
A federal grand jury in Houston returned the 22-count superseding indictment May 11 charging Christine-Tani aka Daniel Rocky Christine-Tahi, Ruben Gonzalez, Rocky Keys and Daniel Christine with conspiracy and various counts of wire fraud. The indictment also adds more charges against known fugitive Emmanuel Padilla Reyes aka Christian Hernandez Bonilla or Noel Rivera, 32, last known of Houston. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 713-693-5000.
Co-conspirators Leidy Areli Hernandez Lopez, 40, Houston, and Octavian Ocasio, 50, New York, were previously charged and arrested in the same scheme.
The indictment alleges all four participated in a scheme involving the use of fictitious car dealerships to issue and sell hundreds of thousands of Texas temporary buyer tags without selling cars. They also allegedly used email accounts and text messaging to communicate and deliver the fraudulent tags to purchasers throughout the United States. The four received and shared proceeds from the fraudulent sale of Texas buyer tags, according to the charges.
In Texas, used car dealerships must have an independent GDN license to buy, sell or exchange used vehicles. To obtain a license applicants must apply. Once an applicant obtains a GDN license, they can buy, sell or exchange used cars and create temporary buyer tags for the transaction through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle’s online eTag portal. The portal is web-based and password protected, and only licensed GDN holders can access it. However, the GDN holder can create other users on their account to allow access to the portal to create and issue buyer tags.
The co-conspirators allegedly provided false information such as fake identities, drivers licenses, lease agreements and business signs in the online application portal to obtain GDN licenses for fictitious car dealerships. The indictment further alleges they advertised the sale of Texas buyer tags via Facebook and Instagram.
According to the charges, the illegal tags pose a danger to the public and law enforcement because purchasers use them to avoid obtaining registration, safety inspections and liability insurance. They can also allegedly be used to hide identities from law enforcement.
If convicted, each faces up to 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
The FBI conducted the investigation with assistance from Travis County Precinct 3 Constables Office, Houston Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, sheriff’s offices in Harris and Ft. Bend Counties, Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, New York State Police and New York City Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Belinda Beek and Adam Goldman are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.