In a significant blow to the selling and trading of counterfeit identification cards, Huntington Park police announced Tuesday that they have confiscated fake documents worth an estimated $7 million.
Stacks of printed material that would have been used to create 79,000 phony driver's licenses, Social Security cards and permanent-resident cards were seized in a raid Friday on a condominium near Lafayette Park west of Downtown Los Angeles.
Police described the condo as the headquarters of a two-family crime syndicate specializing in illegal documents. They said about 10 members of the Los Angeles-based San German and Castorena families operated the fake-document ring, employing scores of street-level sellers.
Two alleged members of the syndicate, Mauricio San German and Martin Curiel Castorena, were arrested Friday during a series of raids throughout Los Angeles County. Two other suspects who police said acted as middlemen, Joel Soto Contreras and Sergio Garcia Paramo, also were arrested.
Alfonso Castorena Ibarra, described by police as the patriarch of the Castorena family, was arrested in May on suspicion of distributing fake documents and is in custody.
"He was the man until he got arrested and relinquished all the duties to the families," said Huntington Park Officer Dan Dominguez, who led the investigation.
Police say they are still seeking other suspects.
Friday's seizures were the second part of a crackdown on illegal-document sales along Pacific Boulevard in Huntington Park by that city's police, who were aided by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The boulevard is one of the busiest places in the Los Angeles area for the selling and trading of illegal documents.
About 85 suspected runners, sellers and manufacturers of counterfeit documents were arrested in September during Operation Mica, a sweep that culminated more than a year of undercover investigations by about 100 officers.
Mica is Spanish for identification; sellers of fake identification are known as micaros . Authentic-looking California driver's licenses are sold by micaros for about $100 in such places as Pacific Boulevard and MacArthur Park, police said.
The micaros receive the fake cards from distributors, who themselves receive the cards from the kingpins of the mica rings, including the San Germans and the Castorenas, police said.
The $7 million in phony IDs would have been sold on the streets within a few months, authorities said.
Police say they are seeking information about the printers of the materials that would have been used in making the counterfeit cards.