A raid in Northwest by federal agents has netted 18 illegal aliens, counterfeit documents and counterfeiting equipment in what U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) officials called a large-scale fraudulent-document ring.
The aliens, mostly Mexican nationals, were taken into custody Wednesday evening as agents armed with federal search warrants swept through Adams Morgan near Georgia and Kansas avenues, ICE spokesman Ronald D. Boyd said yesterday.
Mr. Boyd said the agents seized 249 phony alien registration cards, also known as “green cards,” 678 fraudulent Social Security cards, 1,149 bogus employment authorization cards, and other gear believed to be used in the production of the fake documents.
D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, told reporters yesterday that Adams Morgan is one of the centers of the phony document trade for “the whole East Coast and certainly the mid-Atlantic region.”
He said the federal raid showed that “a lot of money” is being made by the counterfeiters, adding that “unless we keep the pressure up, constant pressure … it’s a very good likelihood of it returning.”
The ongoing investigation, known as “Operation Card Shark,” was conducted by agents from the ICE office in the District in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and with assistance from the FBI, the Secret Service, the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General and the Metropolitan Police Department.
Allan Doody, who heads the ICE field office in the District, said fraudulent identification is “an essential part” of many criminal schemes.
Last year, Operation Card Shark agents raided document vendors in Mount Pleasant. That raid led to the seizure of hundreds of blank documents and equipment for making false identification cards.
The ringleader — Salomon Gonzalez-Gonzalez, also known as Angel Marquez and “El Virus” — pleaded guilty to a five-count indictment and was sentenced to 52 months in prison.
Authorities said Gonzalez-Gonzalez had been deported three times before his 2003 arrest but slipped back into the country each time.
According to Mr. Doody, investigators have identified several document-vending organizations and have dismantled three of them since May 2002.
A conviction for fraudulent immigration documents is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine.
Those arrested included 16 persons from Mexico, one from Guatemala and one from Honduras.