Bradenton sting foils fake ID operation aimed at illegal immigrants
For as little as $125, two Bradenton men accused of selling illegal immigrants fake driver’s licenses, green cards and Social Security documents.
By CHRISTINA E. SANCHEZ and MICHAEL A.
The IDs, created using fake names and stolen Social Security numbers, meant the illegal immigrants could get jobs and drive cars, privileges typically afforded only to people with legal documentation, investigators and prosecutors say.
A tip from a confidential informant in December 2005 prompted federal and local law enforcement to launch an undercover investigation that ended this year with raids on three houses in Bradenton and the arrest of two members of what investigators say is an organized fraud ring. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to crack down on document fraud.
In March 2006, just months before the Bradenton case launched, ICE created the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force to lead the charge, according to an e mail from Barbara Gonzalez, the Miami area spokeswoman for ICE. citizens or legal residents.
One of the alleged key local players, Manuel De Jesus Gonzalez Roblero, also known as Porfirio “Pilo” Velasquez Escalante, intends to plead guilty to two counts of aggravated identity theft, fake id according to federal court records in Tampa.
The charges stem from allegations that Gonzalez Roblero made and sold fake IDs from three Bradenton residences. He faces a minimum mandatory sentence of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Pending approval from a federal judge, the plea agreement also would require Gonzalez Roblero to cooperate with police to prosecute other people under investigation for counterfeiting, according to court documents.
The case of the second man, Vitalino “Antonio” Velasquez Escalante, 37, is pending in federal court. Velasquez Escalante, who a prosecutor said is a brother of Gonzalez Roblero, faces charges of making and selling false identification cards that involved identity theft, according to federal court documents.
From about December 2005 through April 2007, agents from ICE worked with the FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough sheriff’s detectives to build their case on the counterfeiting ring in Bradenton.
The charges are rooted in undercover surveillance, recorded phone calls and five police monitored purchases of the fake IDs.
During the next two years, buy fake ids ICE sent local and federal undercover officers on five occasions to buy fake IDs for fees ranging from $125 to $300.
The documents were sold from Bradenton homes in the 3300 block of Eighth Street East, 3700 block of 11th Street Court East and 500 block of 33rd Avenue Drive, according to court records.
Investigators say that, on each occasion, the scenario was similar:
A man identified as “Pilo” snapped a photo of the buyer using a Polaroid camera and asked for a fake name and date of birth. He would disappear behind a closed door.
Hours or sometimes just minutes later, he emerged with the government ID of the buyer’s choice. District Court documents. It was unclear from federal records how those numbers were acquired. government to immigrants who have applied for and been granted the right to be in the country legally.
An undercover Manatee sheriff’s detective claims that, during an undercover buy in April 2006, he met with “Pilo” at the house in the 3300 block of Eighth Street East.
The detective said he needed an ID because of some old problems he had during run ins with police. The officer wrote up a fake name and a fake birthdate. “Pilo” went into another room.
The machines in the room went to work, the detective said. “Pilo” handed over the cards within 10 minutes. scannable fake ids