- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Ten federal task forces manned by law-enforcement personnel from several agencies were created yesterday to tackle the growing problem of immigration document and benefits fraud, building on the successes of a task force in Northern Virginia.

“The task forces announced today will help restore the integrity of our immigration system and will help close the loopholes that terrorists and other criminals exploit to enter and remain in the United States by fraud,” said Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty.

Led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the new Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces will target, according to a press release:

• Document fraud, which includes the manufacture, sale or use of counterfeit identity documents — such as fake driver’s licenses, birth certificates, Social Security cards or passports — for immigration fraud or other criminal activity. Document fraud also involves efforts to obtain genuine identity documents through fraudulent means.

• Benefits fraud, which includes the misrepresentation or omission of material fact on an application to obtain an immigration benefit one is not entitled to — such as U.S. citizenship, political asylum or a valid visa. Because these benefits give a person the ability to freely enter, work or reside in the U.S., they are prized by illegal aliens, criminals and terrorists willing to pay substantial fees for them.

The task forces will be located in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia, as well as Newark, N.J., and St. Paul, Minn.

“These new task forces are badly needed to help combat the significant threats posed by document- and benefit-fraud schemes,” said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads ICE.

Task-force participants also include the Justice Department, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General, the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Secret Service and state and local law-enforcement agencies.

The new task forces are being modeled on a multiagency task force initiative started by Mr. McNulty when he was the U.S. attorney in Virginia. It brought together agencies to lend their expertise to the investigators and prosecutors.

In the past year, the Virginia task force, working with several federal agencies and the Metropolitan Police Department in the District, arrested 40 counterfeit-document vendors and closed down seven document mills. Nearly 10,000 counterfeit documents also were seized, with a street value of $1 million.

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