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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The unnamed organized crime group the state said is involved in a widespread fraud scheme sent more than 1,000 duplicates of Texas driver’s licenses to three different addresses in Oklahoma, according to court documents.
According to an affidavit filed Monday morning, a total of 1,273 legitimate copies of Texas driver’s licenses were mailed to three residences in Oklahoma, all within a walking distance of one another.
An agent with the Texas Department of Public Safety criminal investigations unit wrote in the affidavit “it is unreasonable for hundreds of driver’s licenses to be sent to each single-story residence as it could not possibly hold that number of occupants.”
The Travis County District Court signed off on the arrest warrant against Tony Cao Li on a felony charge for fraudulent use or possession of identifying information and engaging in criminal activity and a second felony charge for breach of computer security, the affidavit states.
It comes three weeks after DPS leaders first announced to a Texas House Committee that an alleged organized Chinese crime group was able to duplicate more than 3,000 Texans’ driver’s licenses.
The affidavit states during the execution of a residential search warrant of the Oklahoma properties, authorities seized electronic devices and found a “stack of mail” containing official letters from the Texas Driver’s License division of DPS, with “approximately 30 pieces of mail related to fraudulent drivers license renewal receipts.”
The affidavit states Li worked with at least two other co-conspirators. Additionally, Li used the personal identifying information he obtained of an Austin resident in order to purchase a Mercedes vehicle.
KXAN is working to learn if Li is currently in custody.
How did the alleged criminals obtain license duplicates?
On Feb. 27, DPS Director Steven McCraw said the group was able to hack personal identifying information of thousands of Texans through the “dark web.” He said the group then took advantage of a security lapse in the state’s online driver’s license portal, requesting replacement driver’s licenses through mail.
DPS leaders said the state has since made changes to its website, requiring information like the CVV number when users input their credit card information to purchase a replacement ID.
McCraw said Asian-American Texans were targeted with the goal of finding similar names and “look-alikes” that would aid people from China currently residing in the United States illegally.