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Driving school owner accused of immigrant scam

By Associated Press
Published November 6, 2004

NAPLES - The owner of a driving school and two other women were arrested and accused of selling forged documents to illegal immigrants so they could get Florida drivers' licenses.

Minerva Ramos, operator of the Andes Driving School of Naples, has run the scheme for years and took in tens of thousands of dollars in the past year alone, authorities said.

Ramos, 39, faces 31 counts of using false information to obtain drivers' licenses and two counts of grand theft.

Investigators said Ramos, of Cape Coral, charged immigrants for filling out federal forms, creating fake documents indicating license applicants had taken a required drug-and-alcohol test, and returning the birth certificates or passports she asked them to bring in.

"She could charge pretty much anything she wanted," said Sheriff Don Hunter, whose office helped with the investigation.

Ramos would also stand outside an East Naples driver's license office and approach applicants who had been rejected for any reason. She would then take them to offices in counties with different regulations, said Steve Wagner, manager at the Collier County license office.

If clients complained, she would tell them they could be deported, officials said.

Also arrested were Ramos' daughter, Mariza Martinez, 22, of Naples, and school employee Leida Enid Santana, 34, of East Naples. They face charges of using false information to obtain drivers' licenses and grand theft.

[Last modified November 6, 2004, 00:55:16]

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