Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How many of these aren't being caught?

Published: November 22, 2006 12:00 am

Illegal immigrant admits to selling fake IDs

BOSTON - An illegal immigrant from Guatemala who was living in Lawrence pleaded guilty yesterday and was sentenced in federal court to six months in prison for selling fake identification documents.

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan and Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of immigration and customs enforcement in New England, said that Ismael Esteban Chavez, 26, of 87 Alder St., Lawrence, pleaded guilty to a one-count indictment charging him with knowing transfer of fraudulent identification documents

9 charged with sales of faked ID cards

Federal authorities said yesterday that they raided apartments in Medford, Somerville, Hull, and Framingham last week and arrested nine illegal immigrants as part of a national crackdown on labs that manufacture fake identification documents.

The nine people, all Brazilians, were charged with selling counterfeit Social Security cards, alien registration cards, and green cards to informants who were secretly cooperating with a newly formed task force that has been targeting such fraud. The cards allegedly sold for $120 to $200 a set, which included a Social Security card and a green card.

``Counterfeit document labs pose a very serious threat to the safety and security of our communities and our country," said Matthew J. Etre , acting special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Boston. ``Fake documents create the illusion of legitimacy and allow criminals and law breakers to hide in plain sight."

Affidavits filed in court say those charged had sold anywhere from eight to 24 fake identification cards to the government's cooperative informants.

But during a press conference yesterday, US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said investigators believe that one of the immigrants, whom he would not name, produced up to 10 fake documents a day for the past five years.

He said most of those charged used home computers and color copiers to make the fake cards. Most of the documents were issued with immigrants' real names coupled with fictitious Social Security numbers, Sullivan added, and that they didn't involve the theft of people's identities.

Authorities said the scope of the operations ranged from rudimentary to sophisticated -- with some fake Social Security cards barely distinguishable from the real thing.

But several lawyers who represent some of those who were arrested denied that their clients were operating ``labs" and described them as hard-working immigrants.

Page Kelley, a lawyer with the Federal Defender's office who represents two of those arrested, argued that there was no large-scale operation . The case is really about undocumented immigrants who must show proper documentation to get a job or drive a car, she said. All of those arrested have been ordered held without bail. They include: Rubens Desousa Pereira , 36, of Malden; Luciano Silvio Santos, 44, of Medford; Eclair C. Teixeria , 41, of Framingham; Juan Silvino Esteban Ramirez , 36, and his brother, Ismael Esteban Chavez , 25, both of Lawrence; Maria Costa, 33, of Hull; Ricardo Meireles Alves , 50, and his wife, Cleonice Sousa , 42, both of Somerville; and Matusalem Soares Da Rocha , 20, of Worcester.

Kelley, who represents Teixeria and Chavez, said Teixeria works in construction and Chavez worked for a landscaper.

Stephen Hrones , a Boston lawyer who represents Santos and Sousa, said Sousa is a seamstress and mother of four. Federal agents seized a computer, printer, color copier, laminator, and approximately $1,000 from her apartment on Benedict Street in Somerville.

``They are all small-timers," said Hrones, adding that the government is ``sending a message out to try to stop this type of criminal activity."

Boston attorney Jonathan Shapiro , who represents Costa, said she worked cleaning houses. ``She's charged with doing this on her own," he said, adding that all of the transactions she's accused of involved a cooperating witness.

Sullivan said Boston's Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, created two months ago, is one of 10 nationwide that is targeting the escalating problem of labs that manufacture counterfeit identification documents.

The task force is made up of investigators from customs enforcement , the Secret Service, the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, the Social Security Administration's office of the inspector general, and the office of Middlesex Sheriff James DiPaola.

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