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On January 11, 2008, Ohio became the first state to agree to comply with the REAL ID law. Under REAL ID, states will conduct more thorough identity verification, including review of source documents provided by the applicant. That Ohio is moving in the direction of more-secure ID issuance is a good thing; and just last week it was reminded that its driver’s license issuing system was abused for at least four years by two U.S. nationals living in Harrisonburg, Va., plus a Puerto Rican and a Mexican.
Together these four men (a total of eight were indicted in March 2008) comprised a conspiracy that illegally procured and sold “authentic identity cards,” conducted “aggravated identity theft,” and “created false ID documents” that “trafficked in State of Ohio identity cards and other fraudulent identity documents”. These four pled guilty in U.S. District Court and were sentenced on Dec. 11, 2008. According to the Acting US Attorney in the case, Julia Dudley, each man had a distinct role in the conspiracy:
Luis Toro, of Puerto Rico, says he would sell Puerto Rican birth certificates to Edwin Mendez in the United States. He received 42 months confinement and 3 years supervised release.
Edwin Mendez, of Harrisonburg, would sell those documents to illegal aliens who needed them to get state IDs for employment. Mendez was sentenced to 50 months confinement and 3 years supervised release.
Jario Gomez, of Harrisonburg, and Efrain Sanchez-Aparicio, of Mexico, would take illegal immigrants to Columbus, Ohio, to get Ohio ID cards. Gomez received 27 months plus 3 years supervised release. Sanchez-Aparicio received 48 months confinement and 3 years supervised release.
According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement press release of Dec. 11, 2008, the mission of the conspiracy was as follows:
All of those sentenced have been charged with conspiring to produce, transfer, possess and use unlawful identification documents between January 2004, and February 2008. The conspiracy was designed to allow the defendants to enrich themselves by fraudulent means through the trafficking of identity documents and State of Ohio identity cards. Furthermore, the use of Puerto Rican birth certificates and matching Social Security cards prevented detection of the true identity of individuals purchasing those identity documents.
With digital photos and the digitization of birth records, as called for by the 9/11 Commission and the REAL ID law, and with tougher identity verification, identity theft scams like these will continue to become harder to conduct and more vulnerable to law enforcement action. That protects consumers and our nation.
Ohio should make sure the incoming administration in Washington hears that message too.
-- Janice Kephart