Former State Employee and Husband Sentenced for License Fraud

Couple sentenced for producing over 100 false Tennessee driver's licenses.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On May 24, 2024, Cheryl Huff, 49, of Knoxville, and Mario Paz-Mejia (“Paz”), 51, of Knoxville, were sentenced by United States District Judge Katherine A. Crytzer in the United States District Court at Knoxville. Huff received a sentence of 37 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release, while Paz was sentenced to 30 months in prison, also followed by one year of supervised release.

Huff and Paz agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to produce over one hundred false Tennessee driver’s licenses and identification cards for individuals who were not legally qualified to receive them, violating 18 U.S.C. § 1028(f).

According to their plea agreements, Huff was a District Manager for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (TDSHS), overseeing the issuance of driver’s licenses and identification cards at various Driver Service Centers (DSC) across Tennessee. She managed DSC employees in the Greater Knoxville area and had the authority to issue these licenses and cards.

Paz recruited individuals who were neither U.S. citizens nor Tennessee residents but wanted to acquire Tennessee driver’s licenses or identification cards. He charged $2,500 per customer, promising to secure the licenses or ID cards using his connection with Huff. Paz also helped his customers obtain false citizenship and residency documents, including fraudulent lease agreements, birth certificates, Social Security cards, and driver’s licenses from other states and U.S. territories.

Huff was aware, or deliberately ignored the likelihood, that Paz was facilitating the acquisition of false documents and charging money for these services. She used her access to TDSHS’s internal software to verify that the names and information on the false documents provided by Paz’s customers could be used to obtain Tennessee licenses or ID cards. For example, on June 23, 2021, Paz texted Huff the personal information from false documents, asking her to check them. Huff confirmed their validity by responding, “All of these are not on file. They’re good.”

Paz then arranged for his customers to meet him at a Knoxville-area DSC before business hours. With Huff’s help, he escorted them into the DSCs through employee-only entrances. Huff initiated the license applications using TDSHS software, and she also directed subordinate DSC employees to complete the applications and issue the licenses to many of Paz’s customers.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III of the Eastern District of Tennessee. The prosecution resulted from an investigation by the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Criminal Investigation Division, the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the United States Secret Service. William A. Roach, Jr., Assistant United States Attorney, represented the United States.


Source: Read Original Release

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