Arrests may not slow down trade in fake ID cards
Although 12 people were recently indicted on charges related to falsifying documents sold to undocumented immigrants, experts say the organization behind the crime will continue to ply its trade, following the laws of supply and demand.
The 12 are allegedly members of an organization that works from two Las Vegas swap meets, at Eastern Avenue and Bonanza Road and at Eastern and Owens Avenue. attorney for Nevada, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Metro Police, the Department of Justice and the Secret Service.
The sale of false documents at the two locations has been going on for at least five years, with an estimated 1,500 documents sold monthly for at least $50 apiece, said Marc Sanders, a spokesman for INS. The documents sold include Social Security cards, green cards and driver’s licenses.
Sanders said the organization named in the indictment is responding to the needs of the local economy and that the illegal activity will likely continue.
“As you know, the Las Vegas economy requires a robust work force especially in construction and other businesses,” he said. “(And) people will buy these IDs to gain employment . (so) the crime will continue, and we’ll continue to investigate it.”
Malena Burnett, filltrustid an immigration paralegal who works out of an office next to the swap meet by Owens, was witness to the operation last week. She has seen the sale of fake IDs continue after previous arrests and said the same will occur on this occasion.
“I bet you could go back to the swap meet in a week and they will be open for business,” she said.
The 15 year veteran of immigration law said the arrests last week caused dozens of people to try to hide.
“When the truck from the INS came, everybody ran into (a nearby) supermarket,” she said. “A Cuban guy shouted out, ‘Immigration! Run for cover!’ People started hiding out in the refrigerators out back or in the loading area.
“But the organization’s leaders, who are known to many who work in the area, quickly made like they were shopping and loaded up their shopping carts.”
Four people were arrested Oct. 10, and arrest warrants are outstanding for eight others. In addition to the 12 facing criminal charges, 55 others were found to be in the country illegally and are being handled by the Las Vegas INS office, Sanders said. identification documents and up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on three other counts. scannable fake ids
Thirty one of the 55 now in the hands of the INS agreed to leave the country voluntarily and nine will be appearing before an immigration judge in the coming weeks. Some were customers of the false ID sellers and others were involved in some aspect of the operation.
An unknown number will find a way back into the country, whether they leave of their own free will or are deported, the INS official admitted.
“They’ll be gone for awhile, until we see them again,” Sanders said.
To some who work in immigration, the case underscores the need for reform in immigration law.
“The people who buy these documents need to work and employers want to hire them,” said Peter Ashman, a Las Vegas immigration attorney and former head of the Nevada chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
“So this case shows the need for some rational policy to allow these people to gain legal status.”
Sanders said that having people make, sell and use false identification is especially troubling after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“The possibility that someone could establish a false identity and do us harm . is something we have to be aware of,” he said.
Ashman said immigration reform would also increase security.
“It seems counterintuitive to be going after false IDs at a time when security is an issue, instead of making it possible for these people to get legitimate identification, which would allow us to know who they are, scannable fake ids ” he said.