A former Kansas driver’s license examiner in Johnson County has been charged with taking bribes to supply phony licenses to dozens of unqualified applicants who paid as much as $2,500 apiece, authorities said Thursday.
Authorities arrested 33 people this week in connection with the case, which investigators have dubbed Operation Chameleon.
The former Department of Revenue employee, Samantha Jo Moore, 28, of Kansas City, worked at the Mission office. Arrested Tuesday, she is charged with 51 felonies.
The investigation by agents of the Kansas Department of Revenue is ongoing, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe and Kansas Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan said while announcing the charges at a press conference in Olathe.
Howe and Jordan said they could not provide many details of the investigation, which they said has been going for a “considerable” time.
Part of the investigation includes determining how the fraudulent licenses may have been used, Jordan said.
“It’s very disturbing, he said. “These are extremely important documents.”
The charges against Moore include multiple counts of bribery, official misconduct, computer crime, identity theft, felony use of a driver’s license and making a false writing. She also is charged with filing fraudulent Kansas income tax returns for 2012 and 2013.
The alleged crimes occurred between 2011 and 2013, and include allegations that Moore took actions to destroy or tamper with evidence. She is being held in the Johnson County Jail on a bond of $250,000.
Moore was the only revenue employee charged in the case. She began working for the department in 2011, which according to court documents is when the alleged criminal activity began.
But Jordan said he could not comment on when Moore’s employment ended.
Jordan said that in his five years as director, it was the first time there has been such a level of fraud uncovered.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” he said.
Howe said he could not talk about how many more arrests could be expected, but he released the names and photographs of two people authorities believe helped direct license seekers to Moore. The Star is not naming those people because Howe would not say whether they have been charged.
Three other people, described as facilitators, also allegedly direct clients to Moore, officials said.
According to court documents, Shaylynn K. Celedon, 32, of Kansas City, Kan., faces 21 counts of bribery, felony use of a driver’s license, making a false writing and identity theft.
According to court documents, she allegedly bribed Moore on seven occasions between June 2012 and February 2015. Her request to lower her $250,000 bond was denied Tuesday.
Luis Renova Contreras, 43, of Kansas City, Kan., is accused of 17 felony counts, including five counts of bribery. He was released from custody after posting a $250,000 bond. He is required to be under house arrest as a condition of bond, according to court records.
Another Kansas City, Kan., woman, 27-year-old Carolina Mejia, is charged with bribing Moore on two occasions in 2011 and faces four other felony charges. Her bond was reduced from $250,000 to $100,000 during her court hearing.
Twenty-nine others arrested this week have been charged with single counts of bribery, felony use of a driver’s license and making a false writing. Each was released after posting a $2,500 bond, according to jail records.
Court and jail records identify them as Jesus Flores-Basurto, 38, Octavio Rodriguez-Rodriguez, 38, Victor Jimenez-Flores, 50, and Edgar Hernandez-Gonzalez, 38, of Overland Park; Jose Aguero, 37, Hector Castro-Vasquez, 24, Isabel Chavez, 35, and Fidel Valverde, 49, of Olathe; Andres Ruiz-Arellanes, 47, of Merriam; and Francisco Cacique, 50, Pedro Olvera, 43, Veronica Anchondo-Acosta, 43, Alexander Arroyo, 35, Ana Castro-Villalobos, 39, Hector Castro, 47, Porfirio Espinoza-Nevarez, 43, Cristina Hernandez, 34, Ricardo Jimenez-Serrano, 33, Edson Mera, 39, Lazaro Ortega, 36, Alvino Ramirez, 38, Marcos Reyna, 36, Juan Valles, 44, Refugio Hernandez, 40, Justino Mejia-Lopez, 42, Alfredo Mercado, 44, Andres Rangel-Pena, 36, Jesus Gomez, 42, and Fermin Zepeda, 44, all of Kansas City, Kan.