Federal officials are cracking down on driver's license fraud, with charges filed in three states.
Land Line reported April 29 that 23 people were arrested in connection with an alleged scheme to sell fake Florida driver's licenses. Those arrests, revealed by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami April 28, were connected to an alleged scheme that prosecutors said led to 36 people illegally obtaining Florida commercial driver's licenses, hazardous materials certifications or access to South Florida ports.
But that is only one of three similar cases now being pursued by law-enforcement officials.
A week before, on April 21, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and U.S. Postal inspectors say they broke up a fake ID ring in Michigan.
In that case, revealed by ICE, federal agents arrested four people - identified as Ali Hawil, Daher Al-Mayahi, Barbara Wilke and Mohamad Barry. Federal agents said they also seized more than $20,000 and a variety of document-production equipment.
According to ICE, the arrests were the result of an investigation into the production and sale of fake Michigan driver's licenses, U.S. visas, foreign passports and Social Security cards.
In the investigation, an undercover immigration and customs agent, posing as an Iraqi arms dealer with an Afghan passport, contacted one of the four suspects. During a meeting with a second suspect, that person demanded $100 from the undercover agent for a fake driver's license - something that the suspect, according to the federal agency, said he'd done "a thousand times."
A day after those arrests, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested three Maryland residents after the federal agency alleged they were part of a scheme to provide fraudulent Maryland state identification cards to potentially hundreds of people, many of them illegal immigrants.
The criminal complaint in the case contends that between August 2004 and February 2005, the three workers - identified by the agency as Dodson Robey, Margentina Esther Pinilla and Valentin Roosevelt Milstein - provided the cards to people who paid more than $1,000 each. The scheme was discovered after an investigation by ICE, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration Internal Investigations and the U.S. Attorney's Office
A week later, prosecutors moved in on the Florida fake CDL ring.
In that case, the U.S. Attorney's Office alleges those arrested and charged in a criminal complaint included three who worked as Florida driver's license examiners, five recruiters and 15 who received illegal driver's licenses.
Federal officials also took 29 other people into custody; they are suspected of immigration law violations.
"This investigation has demonstrated how the corrupt acts of driver's license examiners can circumvent our state's licensing procedures," Marcos Daniel Jiménez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said in a written statement. "We will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute anyone who violates the licensing procedures in this state."
According to Jiménez' office, illegal aliens who wanted false CDLs would first contact one of the scheme's recruiters, and then contact one of the examiners. After an exchange of paperwork, the examiners allegedly certified the person as a U.S. citizen. The person requesting the false CDL would pay the examiner between $100 and $200 and the recruiters from $1,500 to $3,000.
Jiménez' office identified the three examiners charged in the case as Derene Frasier, Tracie Dunlap and Yvette Jackson.
Jesus Torres of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Associated Press that in the Florida case, no evidence connected the alleged CDL purchasers to terrorism. However, Jiménez said the possibility of that happening made the case important.
"These cases are important because a driver's license is a bad guy's ticket in," Jiménez told the news service.
- By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor