Rockville man sentenced for counterfeit license scam

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Local,Crime,Scott McCabe

A Rockville man was sentenced to five years in a scam in which he conned Hispanic people into paying for counterfeit driver's licenses that he never produced.

Jose Luis Ventura, who was originally from El Salvador, preyed on his "own people," said John McCarthy, the state's attorney for Montgomery County.

"He stole their money and gave them nothing in return. Today, justice was served," McCarthy said.

Detectives have identified more than 15 victims from whom Ventura received a total of about $24,200. Fourteen of his victims showed up for his sentencing Friday, and police believe there are additional victims.

According to court documents, Ventura told his victims that he had a connection inside the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration who could illegally obtain driver's licenses and identification cards. He charged them between $800 and $2,000 and had the victims provide him tax identification, passports or other forms of identification to speed up the process.

He then instructed his victims to meet at one location where he would collect the remaining payment. From one van alone, he collected $9,700 in cash, prosecutors said. He would then tell the victims to drive with him in a caravan to the MVA in Gaithersburg.

Ventura would instruct them to remain in their cars, and they each would be escorted to the MVA one by one.

Ventura would disappear, and his victims would never hear from him again. The victims sometimes waited in their cars for hours before they realized they had been scammed, prosecutors said. Some never had their passports or other identification cards returned.

But Ventura's scheme unraveled in March when police pulled him over in Silver Spring and found fake ID cards, copies of other people's passports and a handgun.

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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