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  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Mar 2006
    Santa Clarita Ca

    Phony ID Documents for illegal workers Big Business ... 501687.htm


    Posted on Thu, May. 04, 2006

    Making phony ID documents for illegal workers is a big business

    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    WASHINGTON - Forgers are making tens of millions, and possibly billions, of dollars selling counterfeit Social Security cards, driver's licenses, immigrant registration cards and other papers to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

    The dominant forgery-and-distribution network in the United States allegedly is controlled by the Castorena family, say U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. Its members emigrated from Mexico in the late 1980s and have used their printing skills and business acumen to capture a big piece of the booming industry.

    Only trained experts can distinguish its fake identity documents from real ones, and the Castorena Family Organization, or CFO, as ICE officials call it, has spread to at least 50 cities in 33 states.

    At a sentencing hearing for one family member in December, U.S. District Judge Lewis T. Babcock of Denver said that the CFO's criminal reach is "simply breathtaking" and strikes "at the heart of the sovereignty of the United States of America."

    The threat of terrorism has made document forgers even more menacing since the 9/11 attacks. Two of the 9/11 hijackers used fraudulent notarized forms to obtain valid Virginia ID cards, which enabled them to board the two airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center.

    Julie Myers, the assistant secretary for ICE, calls document forging an "epidemic." Her agency, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, is waging a nationwide crackdown on forgery rings and has formed multi-agency task forces in 10 cities, including Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta and St. Paul, Minn.

    The agency's investigations have hobbled many CFO operations, indicting and convicting family members and senior subordinates. But the CFO's fugitive chieftain, Pedro Castorena-Ibarra, still controls operations from Mexico, agency investigators said, and the family enterprise continues to dominate the illicit document trade in the United States.

    ICE agents are conducting more than 3,500 investigations nationwide into document forging. They've closed document mills in Charlotte, N.C., Los Angeles, Denver and several other cities in recent months. But CFO cells continue to operate in many cities, including Dallas; Houston; Miami; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; New York; Chicago; Atlanta; and Newark, N.J.

    Federal authorities said it's virtually impossible to calculate the financial scope of document forging, but illicit profits easily amount to many millions of dollars, if not billions. One investigation of CFO operations in Los Angeles alone resulted in the seizure of 3 million documents with a street value of more than $20 million.

    "We've hit them pretty hard, but have we shut down the entire operation? I don't think we can say that yet," said Scott A. Weber, chief of ICE's Identity and Benefit Fraud Unit in the agency's Washington headquarters. "We know there are many different cells out there, and they are still providing documents."

    In recent years, the CFO has faced competition from rival organizations, including a group called the Los Acapulcos Organization, which has cells in Denver and Phoenix. Scores of operatives in both organizations have been arrested and deported to Mexico and other countries in Latin America.

    The rise of illegal-document vendors is an unintended consequence of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which is widely considered a failure. It put the onus on employers to ensure that a job applicant has legitimate papers, such as a Social Security card, driver's license or voter-registration card.

    Employers complain that they often can't tell real documents from phonies, and they risk being charged with a discrimination violation if they reject a qualified applicant. The 1986 law imposed civil penalties on employers of illegal immigrants, but the sanctions have been enforced haphazardly at best.

    Unscrupulous employers also exploited the statute, authorities say. In mid-April, ICE agents raided the nationwide operations of Houston-based IFCO Systems, a pallet-recycling firm, after an undercover investigation led to allegations that midlevel managers were recruiting illegal immigrants and helping them obtain phony documents. Top company officials have said that they thought the documentation was legitimate.

    Illegal immigrants are often given packages of phony documents as part of a $2,000 smuggling fee. Others can easily make contact with vendors who operate on street corners or at flea markets in immigrant communities in virtually every city.

    In Washington, vendors operate openly in the city's ethnically diverse Adams-Morgan neighborhood, only a few miles north of the White House, said James Spero, an ICE agent in the agency's metropolitan Washington office. Peddlers attract potential customers by forming a C-shape with their thumbs and forefingers, a sign widely recognized among illegal immigrants that the peddlers have documents for sale.

    A typical transaction usually includes key papers such as a Social Security card, a driver's license and a "green card" granting immigrants permanent U.S. residency. Fees range from $75 to $300, depending on quality.

    After a customer places the order, a runner takes the money and a photo to a document mill, typically in a nondescript house or apartment. The false documents are often in the customer's hands within an hour.

    Some fakes are laughingly amateurish. Analysts at the ICE document lab in Northern Virginia said they occasionally come across ironed-on laminated cards that contain imprints of the irons. One forger trying to replicate a document from a foreign country used a picture of his uncle as a stand-in for the country's president.

    Forgers often use their own fingerprints when documents require them. They also routinely make up or use Social Security numbers that can match many numbers held by legitimate citizens and can be a first step toward full identity theft. Knight Ridder reported last month that the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service routinely receive evidence of people using bogus Social Security numbers, but they refuse to share that information with ICE officials, who want to use the data to search for illegal immigrants and the companies that employ them.

    Lawmakers are struggling to craft a new immigration law to correct the last law's shortcomings with tamper-proof identity cards and a nationwide databank, but skeptics fear that resourceful criminals will still find ways to beat the system.

    The gold standard for document forgeries, investigators said, comes off the assembly line of the Castorena network. The organization built its fortune by employing the same principles used by successful legitimate corporations: a superior product, franchises in major cities and a coast-to-coast sales force.

    CFO counterfeiters microscopically study relevant U.S. documents and meticulously replicate virtually every detail, including some security features that are embedded into the laminate in an attempt to prevent duplication.

    Analysts using high-tech equipment at the ICE document lab unfailingly spot forgeries, but the Castorena-produced documents can easily fool employers and even the trained eyes of cops on the street.

    Pedro Castorena-Ibarra, one of ICE's 10 most wanted fugitives, allegedly started the operation with three brothers and two sisters after they entered the country and settled in the heavily Hispanic MacArthur Park section of Los Angeles.

    In-laws and trusted lieutenants became part of the leadership as the network expanded across the country by charging "franchise fees" of up to $15,000 per month to run document mills.

    Key CFO operatives routinely use phony documents to mask their identities. In some cases, they're known only by nicknames, such as "Gabby," the suspected leader in Kansas City, and "Coyote," the Houston cell leader. The leader in Dallas is believed to be Alberto Soto-Ronquillo, who's been part of the CFO for more than a decade, ICE agents say.

    For years, the organization supplied most of the nation's print stock of phony documents. Later it distributed computer templates after the high-tech era opened the door to computerized counterfeiting, investigators said. Court documents from a Denver investigation describe the network as "intricately orchestrated and exceptionally well-organized."

    The Castorenas forbid local operatives from drug trafficking and other sideline trades that would attract increased scrutiny from law enforcement, investigators said. They also regularly update their products to keep pace with government-mandated changes in official documents.

    Castorena-Ibarra, 42, who fled to Mexico to escape federal indictments, still runs the organization, passing orders through surrogates in the United States, said Cory Voorhis, an ICE special agent in Denver.

    ICE officials said they're working with Mexican authorities to return him to the United States, but the mustachioed fugitive moves frequently and changes cell phones every few days.

    At one point, he was thought be living with his wife and son in a lavishly furnished home in Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara. He travels frequently to Mexico City and is thought to have several mistresses. ICE also has received information that Castorena-Ibarra and other family members have invested in legitimate businesses such as real estate and taxicab companies.

    "He's pretty comfortable," Voorhis said. "He believes he's safe."


    EDITORS: ICE formed multi-agency task forces to combat document fraud in the following 10 cities: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Newark, Philadelphia and St. Paul. The task forces were announced in early April. Other participating agencies include the Department of Justice, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Labor Department, Social Security Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the State Department and Secret Service.
    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  2. #2
    mrmiata7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    Unoccupied Savannah, Georgia

    Who is in control?

    The senate forgives illegal aliens who fraudulently use our social security numbers and are awarded benefits. The government "conveniently" loses millions of veteran's ssn's including mine. This government as far as I am concerned is complicit in id theft and I wouldnt be surprised if it was running the illegal document production cartels. The damn senate has dishonored and disgraced veterans as myself and have basically told all Americans to go to hell as we don't care and have no respect for you. The upcoming holiday has no meaning to those that have dishonored, betrayed and disgraced the sacrifices of our gallant men and women.

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