YOUNGSTOWN Ohio: Easy for getting fake ID?



The INS said aliens have a right to a deportation hearing and bond.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- New York brokers are buying birth certificates from poor people in Puerto Rico, then selling them to illegal aliens who use them to obtain Ohio identification cards, a prosecutor says.
City Prosecutor Dionne M. Almasy said Tuesday that she learned about the transactions while trying to determine how to proceed with four illegal aliens being held in the Mahoning County jail. "We suspect [the birth certificates] may be real documents."
The four John Does, three from Guatemala and one from Mexico, were arrested Monday on forgery-related charges after using Puerto Rican birth certificates to obtain Ohio IDs at West Side Merchants on Mahoning Avenue.
"They said Ohio is one of the easiest states to obtain an ID," Almasy said. "They said they paid $1,200 each for the birth certificates and $300 each for a ride here from Delaware."
Over the counter
With the right documentation, Social Security cards and birth certificates, Ohio issues ID cards over the counter, not through the mail as some states do, said Linda Wauschek, manager at West Side Merchants. If the men had not provided Puerto Rican birth certificates, which signify United States citizenship, they would have been asked for documents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Wauschek said.
Wauschek said a lot of red flags went up, but the ID cards were processed so there would be photos of the men for police.
West Side Merchants is an agent for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Dan Farinelli, BMV fraud investigator, could not be reached.
Almasy said the men admitted they're in the United States illegally. She said they had other fake IDs on them, and their true identities remain a mystery for now.
The prosecutor said she was told by an INS investigator in Cleveland that the men could agree to be deported but would likely show up again in the country in two weeks, and a stronger case for deportation would be made if they faced criminal charges. "I told him I'd get back to him."
Almasy said that, from a common-sense point of view, the men are here illegally and INS should take action, regardless of whether a crime was committed. If charged in municipal court, they would be entitled to bond and likely flee, she said.
"We have to [first] establish that they are aliens," said Barry Halfhill, assistant district director of INS investigations in Cleveland. "Then we would determine if they are amenable to removal [deportation]. If convicted in Youngstown, that may make them amenable to removal."
Halfhill said the INS doesn't tell arresting agencies how to proceed.
If the men are turned over now to INS, they would have a deportation hearing presided over by an administrative judge. They would be entitled to bond before the hearing, Halfhill said.
The closest INS administrative judge is in Detroit, Halfhill said. The judge occasionally travels to Cleveland for hearings and can do hearings via video hookup, he said.
Halfhill said if the men are turned over now to the INS, it has contracts with several area jails where they would stay until a bond hearing. Bond, he said, would factor in whether they have ties to the community or if they present a danger or a flight risk.
The accused
The names on the Puerto Rican birth certificates are Julio Rodriguez, Miguel Mendoza, Eduardo Figuero and Ricardo Santiago.
The woman who drove them here was initially identified as Julisee Pena, 23, of Tampa, originally from the Dominican Republic. She, too, was booked into the jail pending verification of her identity.
The men likely came to the United States to work, said Detective Sgt. Jose Morales, who speaks Spanish. Morales said it may take a while to verify their identities.
Almasy said investigators are checking out a report that the men were working at chicken farms in Delaware for $11 an hour.
meade@vindy.com

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