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3 Accused of Running Phony-Document Mill

January 14, 2006|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Two Oxnard men remained in custody late Friday after their arrest on suspicion of running a phony-document mill that produced hundreds of fake Social Security cards, driver's licenses and green cards.

During a raid Tuesday at a house in the 100 block of McMillan Avenue in Oxnard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and Ventura County sheriff's deputies confiscated counterfeiting equipment and tools, including a computer, laminating machines, printers and scanners.

About $6,000 in cash was also recovered. Investigators believe the suspects charged $60 to $70 for a set of phony identification cards.

"We want to let [criminals] know that we're looking at these types of crimes and taking them seriously," said David Wales, resident agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations in Ventura County. "The documents produced by these counterfeiting mills can be exploited by criminals and even terrorists to obscure their identities."

The two men in custody are Jose Luis Jimenez, 29, who was arrested at the home he occupied, and Florencio Hernandez-Morales, 34, who was apprehended later that day while working for an Oxnard moving company. Both are in the U.S. illegally, authorities said.

A third suspect, Alfonso Vanegas, 39, was arrested at his Oxnard home Thursday but released Friday afternoon after posting bond. All three men are charged with producing and transferring fraudulent documents, a charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

They were arrested after a yearlong investigation that began with an anonymous phone tip.

Based on evidence obtained at the scene, Wales believes that the mill generated tens of thousands of dollars worth of documents and that much of the profits were transferred across the border to Mexico.

"The quality of some of these documents is quite astounding," he said. "With the technology out there today, these counterfeiters are becoming more sophisticated and can produce some outstanding documents."

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