A former state employee and a fellow conspirator who colluded to peddle driver's licenses to illegal immigrants were sentenced to state prison yesterday.
Adalberto Medina, 40, of Manchester, described by a prosecutor as the "catalyst" for the scam, received a five- to 10-year sentence.
Donna Rockholt, 48, of Manchester, who made the licenses while working as a clerk in the Division of Motor Vehicles in Salem, was given an eight- to 28-year sentence. Prosecutors had asked for longer sentences: six to 21 years for Medina, 12 to 47 years for Rockholt.
Relatives, friends, even a parish priest, asked for leniency for the defendants, whose attorneys said had admitted wrongdoing, cooperated with investigators and were sorry for the harm they had done.
Medina's lawyer, Charles Bookman, requested his client be jailed for less than a year to spare him potential deportation to the Dominican Republican.
Rockholt's lawyer, Richard Lehmann, argued that Rockholt should get no more than defendants in similar public corruption cases from other states, and be sentenced to three and a half to seven years.
Judge Tina Nadeau, presiding in Rockingham County Superior Court, said it was a sad day because of Rockholt's actions as a public official.
While Rockholt had demonstrated remorse, Nadeau said, she had to balance that in sentencing against the need for punishment and to deter other public officials from such crimes.
"You were in a position of trust," Nadeau told Rockholt.
Nadeau also said she couldn't in good conscience give Medina a lighter sentence merely because of the threat of deportation. "Your involvement was deep and consistent," Nadeau told him.
Associate Attorney General Jane Young described Rockholt as "the linchpin" who made the conspiracy viable by repeatedly abusing her position for her own gain.
"The defendant must pay a high price," Young said.
Assistant Attorney General Michael Lewis said Medina was deeply involved and exposed family and friends to the scheme.
"He was the catalyst," Lewis said.
The scheme went on for more than five years and put more than five dozen fraudulent licenses into the hands of illegal immigrants and others.
Prosecutors estimated Medina received $1,600 per license, while Rockholt received more than $34,000 through the conspiracy, prosecutors said.
"She only cared about the money," Young said.
A number of people were charged in the conspiracy, including a Lawrence woman who helped find people who wanted the licenses. Also charged were people who purchased the fraudulent licenses.
Medina also was involved in a separate scandal, trading automotive work to former state trooper Fred Stamatatos for salvage inspection stickers.
The actions of those involved in the license scam potentially opened the door to criminal activity by others, prosecutors maintained.
The impact of the conspiracy "may never truly be known," Young said.
Rockholt, chocking back tears, acknowledged hurting herself and others, and said it was a relief to be caught.
"Please, accept my sincerest apology," Rockholt said.
Medina, who was provided an interpreter in court, apologized in a letter read by his lawyer.
"I have no excuses for what I did. I did wrong," the letter said.
Bookman also disputed the prosecution's view of Medina's role. "The big difference of opinion is with regards to the facts about how big a player Mr. Medina was," Bookman told Nadeau.