- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents yesterday arrested 16 persons in raids on a suspected counterfeit document ring that operated “open-air markets” in Washington’s Adams Morgan neighborhood and in Hyattsville.

ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said the agents discovered and seized phony Social Security cards, laminating machines, typewriters and more than 20 bags of “documentary evidence” during raids at five locations. All of those arrested were identified as illegal aliens.

“These arrests demonstrate our continuing commitment to rid the D.C. area of fraudulent document organizations,” said ICE agent Alan Doody, who heads the agency’s Washington field office. “False identity documents pose a serious homeland security threat in that they can be provided to criminals and terrorists and used for virtually any purpose.

“Working with our law-enforcement partners, we will continue to target these organizations,” Mr. Doody said.

Document fraud is considered a major problem by law-enforcement authorities, who have said that millions of phony Social Security cards, driver’s licenses, birth certificates and other papers have been sold to illegal aliens and others throughout the United States.

All 19 of the September 11 hijackers had fraudulent Social Security cards.

Armed with search warrants, ICE agents — assisted by the U.S. Secret Service — raided five locations and seized the documents and equipment in what was described as a continuing law-enforcement initiative known as “Operation Card Shark,” which is aimed at “disrupting and dismantling open-air markets” in the region.

Mr. Boyd said the raids were conducted in Northwest locations of the 500 block of Tuckerman Street, the 700 block of Harvard Street, the 700 block of Morton Street and the 4900 block of Kansas Avenue, as well as the Hyattsville location.

Four of the illegal aliens, he said, are suspected of being fraudulent document vendors and could face criminal charges. The others are being detained on immigration violations.

Operation Card Shark is an ongoing investigation by ICE, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Secret Service Uniform Division, the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General and the Metropolitan Police Department.

Since May 2002, the operation has identified several document vending organizations and has dismantled three of them.

Mr. Boyd said five document “mills” have been shut down as a result of the investigation, and more than 10,000 documents have been seized with an estimated street value of $450,000.

He said 159 aliens have been apprehended and 40 have been prosecuted.

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