CORPUS CHRISTI — Even after the arrest of Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre, Texas Department of Public Safety Special Agent Rene Olivarez was unaware that title transfers work differently for dealers.
On the second day of the trial Thursday, Olivarez testified that it was not until weeks before the trial that he learned that dealers do not need to show photo ID or proof of insurance for vehicle title transfers.
“During the entire operation, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles was giving you dealer titles, but you never asked and they never told you that dealer titles have no requirements for providing insurance and ID?” lead defense attorney Eddie Lucio said. “That’s the reason we’re here today, correct?”
Yzaguirre is charged with 11 counts of abuse of official capacity, 10 counts of bribery and one count of official oppression.
Yzaguirre was arrested following a sting operation that began Sept. 14 when DPS cooperating individual Mel Sosa was able to successfully get three illegal title transfers.
“They say the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching,” state attorney Kristine Trejo said in the Cameron County District Attorney’s opening statement Wednesday. “That is why we are here today.”
After the initial operation, Texas DPS wanted to see how far Yzaguirre would go.
The next step was to see if Yzaguirre would register two titles without buyer and seller information.
“We knew Mr. Yzaguirre was allowing vehicles to be registered if Mr. Sosa didn’t have driver’s license and insurance, because the vehicles had been processed,” Olivarez said. “We decided to take it a step forward by not putting in a signature.”
Sosa first attempted this Dec. 10, 2015. He was unsuccessful.
Despite Sosa’s failed attempt, Olivarez testified that $1,100 was taken in bribes, $100 for each “vehicle” Yzaguirre registered.
Trejo asked Richard Arevalo, who works with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles in Pharr, what level of harm the tax office could cause by not following procedure.
“The county won’t know if it’s an actual person, or if the vehicle is stolen. That’s why we have (the photo ID) rule,” Arevalo said. “It (also) does hurt consumers. How do we know the people next to you on the highway have liability insurance if they get into an accident?”
If the county tax assessor-collector processes documents with missing information, the DMV would not know, Arevalo said.
The trial continues this morning with video evidence DPS agents obtained throughout the investigation.
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