Feds bust ID traffickers

The Justice Department on Wednesday charged 50 people for conspiring to make, sell and traffic illegal IDs.

In an indictment unsealed in Puerto Rico, the Justice Department (DOJ) announced that it had dismantled one of the largest fraudulent identification trafficking rings in the United States.

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Hundreds of identities were illegally sold to undocumented aliens from 2009 to 2011, according to the indictment.

For as much as $2,500, people in the United States illegally attempted to purchase the identification documents of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens, including Social Security cards, birth certificates, and state driver's licenses, according to the announcement by DOJ.

None of the people who tried to buy the illegal IDs are suspected of attempting to carry out terrorist activities, though neither Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton nor Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the DOJ’s Criminal Division said how many of the successfully sold and trafficked IDs were still at large.

The officials said that every trafficked ID they were aware of has been tracked and dozens of agencies, including state motor vehicle departments, have been notified to flag the fraudulently obtained documents.

The officials, citing the ongoing investigation, said they could not reveal exactly how the documents were obtained, but they stipulated that the indictment was not related to a recent police corruption case in Puerto Rico. 

More than 1,000 agents have been involved so far in arresting 61 of the 70 people involved in the scheme, which was operated in 15 states and Puerto Rico, according to ICE and DOJ officials.

The indictment alleges that illegal aliens would contact brokers who would then order the identity documents from suppliers in Puerto Rico.

Law enforcement officials lauded the take-down as a huge step forward in the United State’s fight against illegal identity theft and attempts to undermine the country’s immigration process.

“The conspiracy alleged to be perpetrated by those charged undermines the integrity of our national immigration system,” Morton said. “We will continue working with our federal partners to protect our homeland from criminals who have no regard for our nation's safety and security.”