Monday, March 26, 2012

Maryland Man Sentenced for Immigration and Identity Document Fraud

A Maryland document trafficker was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for manufacturing, selling and transferring fraudulent identification documents, including permanent resident cards, and Social Security cards following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of Inspector General, the U.S. State Department Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).

Victor Lopez-Escamilla aka "Mango Chupado," and "Ventura," 39, of Brooklyn, Md., was sentenced Wednesday, March 21, by U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. to 97 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for count one of the charges on fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, 60 months for count two Social Security card fraud and 97 months for count three, fraud and misuse of immigration documents. All were ordered to be served concurrently. Lopez-Escamilla is a Mexican national residing in the U.S. illegally.

At the sentencing hearing, Judge Quarles found that Lopez-Escamilla was responsible for more than $140,000 in fraudulent documents and more than 250 victims whose Social Security numbers and immigration numbers were used on the counterfeit identity documents. In addition, Judge Quarles found that Lopez-Escamilla had obstructed justice by exposing the identities of witnesses.

"To gain immigration benefits and lawful status in the United States is not something to be sold or bought," said William Winter, special agent in charge of HSI Baltimore. "HSI's Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force will continue to go after these individuals that are jeopardizing our national security and investigate those that are seeking to obtain legal status fraudulently."

According to court documents and testimony at his three-day trial, from July 2009 to the spring or summer of 2010, Lopez-Escamilla sold fraudulent documents made by a group in the 200 block of South Broadway in Baltimore. Witnesses testified that Lopez-Escamilla solicited individuals in the Baltimore area to buy fake identification documents and Lopez-Escamilla was observed and photographed receiving and distributing fake identification documents. The evidence further reflected that in the spring or summer of 2010, Lopez-Escamilla began manufacturing documents himself in a "document mill" in his bedroom. Lopez-Escamilla received photographs and personal information from the individuals ordering the documents, which he then used to manufacture the fraudulent documents. Lopez-Escamilla generally charged between $100 and $150 for a permanent resident and Social Security card, and at least $100 for a fraudulent Maryland driver's license.

HSI special agents executed a search warrant May 26, 2011 at Lopez-Escamilla's residence and seized counterfeit documents, used ribbons showing documents that had been created, and equipment and supplies used to make counterfeit documents. More than 100 exhibits were presented at trial, including a Cheetos can with a fake bottom that contained numerous fraudulent identification documents.

On May 29, nine defendants are scheduled for trial in a related case involving the alleged trafficking in fraudulent identification documents on Broadway in Baltimore.

The investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore, SSA Office of Inspector General, the U.S. State Department DSS Washington Field Office, MVA Investigation and Security Services Division and the Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County police departments.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamera L. Fine.

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