Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 2:00 pm

Five Newton residents have been arrested on federal charges of conspiring with each other to make and sell fake identification papers to illegal aliens in Wilkes, Alleghany, Surry and other area counties.

Rosalba Lopez-Cruz, Sixto Lopez-Cruz, Wilber Lopez-Cruz and Crescencio Lopez-Cruz, identified as siblings, and Mario Tercero-Cruz, are charged with conspiracy to violate federal law, unlawful transfer of a fraudulent identification document, fraudulent immigration document and falsely representing a Social Security number.

Charges against the five, identified by authorities as illegal aliens, were filed in the Western District of U.S. District Court on Feb. 28.

Crescencio Lopez-Cruz admitted making and selling two to three sets of fraudulent documents per week since March 2012, according to an affidavit filed in federal court by Special Agent Nathan Peachey of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Wilber Lopez-Cruz said he and Crescencio Lopez-Cruz made the documents in their apartment on College Avenue in Newton.

The affidavit said Crescencio Lopez-Cruz sold fake North Carolina driver’s licenses and Social Security cards for about $200 each, documents with identifying information of real people for about $600 each and also permanent resident cards.

According to the affidavit, Crescencio Lopez-Cruz said he made two types of fraudulent documents: those with real identification numbers that could be used for getting insurance, utilities and similar purposes and those with numbers not taken from legitimate papers. He said he charged more for fake documents with real numbers.

The affidavit stated that Rosalba Lopez-Cruz told investigators that Crescencio Lopez-Cruz had different types of lists of names. One type had matching names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. He also had lists of names with Social Security numbers and lists of names without Social Security numbers.

Capt. Shon Talley of the Sparta Police Department, part of a multi-jurisdictional investigation of the illegal activities, said state charges filed initially were superseded by the federal charges.

Talley said the five people wouldn’t be released from custody until their cases were heard and that they faced the possibility of at least two years in federal prison and deportation.

“What they were doing was basically identity theft,” said Talley, adding that it included using legitimate identification information taken from Hispanic immigrants to create fake documents that were sold. “They would paste the photo of another illegal alien over the information of the legal resident whose identity they had stolen,” Talley explained.

He said they bought information taken from legal residents when they tried to get jobs. “Sadly, when a person in a position of trust chooses to sell this kind of information, there’s really nothing an individual can do to protect him or herself,” said Talley.

According to Peachey’s affidavit, an informant stated in an Oct. 22, 2012, meeting with him and a State Bureau of Investigation agent that Crescencio Lopez-Cruz was selling fraudulent documents that included North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Mexican identification papers, as well as green cards, birth certificates and Social Security cards.

The affidavit said that in Wilkesboro on Nov. 14, 2012, and in Elkin the next day, an undercover agent bought fake driver’s licenses and Social Security cards from Sixto Lopez-Cruz and Crescencio Lopez-Cruz.

The affidavit said an undercover agent met with Rosalba Lopez-Cruz and Wilber Lopez-Cruz on Dec. 10, 2012, at the apartment on College Avenue in Newton to get fake identification documents.

Rosalba Lopez-Cruz took the undercover agent’s photo for a document that Wilber Lopez-Cruz said should only be used for getting a job and Rosalba Lopez-Cruz provided the agent with a fake North Carolina driver’s license, Social Security card and E-Verify certificate for $660 the next day, the affidavit stated.

Officers went to the College Avenue apartment in Newton with a search warrant on Feb. 21 and took Sixto Lopez-Cruz, Crescencio Lopez-Cruz, Rosalba Lopez-Cruz and Wilber Lopez-Cruz into custody. They also found a custom-built computer tower, copier printer and laminator, identified in the affidavit as being used to make fake identification documents.

According to the affidavit, Evelia Lopez-Cruz said Crescencio Lopez-Cruz started paying Mario Tercero-Cruz to help make fraudulent documents around November 2012. The affidavit said officers found evidence of identity theft, including lists of names with Social Security numbers, when they went to an apartment on Mount Olive Church Road in Newton and searched after receiving permission from Ms. Tercero-Cruz.

The affidavit said all of the people charged except Rosalba Lopez-Cruz work at Tree Brand Packaging, a pallet company in Denver.

Talley said people who sought work through temporary employment agencies could be particularly at risk and should check credit reports for suspicious activity. He said free credit reports could be downloaded from, run by three credit reporting agencies. There is no charge for downloading one report per agency per year.

In addition to the Sparta Police Department, agencies involved in the investigation included U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Alleghany, Catawba and Lincoln county sheriff’s departments; Conover and Newton police departments; State Bureau of Investigation and N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles.

5 arrested in fake ID conspiracy - journalpatriot: News