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6 years in fed pen for former Fort Lee ringleader of Bergen-based illegal driver’s license mill

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A former Fort Lee man who ran a nationwide ring out of Bergen County that fraudulently obtained driver’s licenses for illegal aliens and other ineligible people was sentenced today to six years in federal prison.

Young-Kyu Park, 58, headed an operation that illegally obtained driver’s licenses genuinely issued by New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Nevada, and elsewhere by acquiring, creating and counterfeiting a variety of documents for sale to customers.

Ring members also escorted customers to various state motor vehicle agencies and coached them through obtaining the licenses. In return, customers reportedly paid $3,000 to $4,500 each.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Faith S. Hochberg sentenced Park to two years of supervised release, fined him $10,000 and ordered him to forfeit of $1.2 million.

By “shepherding illegal aliens through the application process and providing them with counterfeit documentation, the defendants enabled their customers to gain access to all the credibility that a driver’s license affords,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said. “Strong immigration enforcement includes guarding against those who subvert the safeguards designed to keep us secure.”

A key player, Fishman said, was Martin Trejo, a contract employee of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), who authorities said stole and provided forms used to aid in the scheme. Trejo worked at the USCIS’ Western Forms Center in Montclair, Calif. – the United States’ largest warehouse storage facility for these forms.

Trejo admitted providing genuine I-797 forms for customers to use to get licenses. An I-797 form is used by the federal government – including USCIS, a division of the Department of Homeland Security – to communicate with others or convey an immigration benefit.

State agencies that issue driver’s licenses rely on these forms to verify the authenticity of an applicant’s foreign passport and to verify the applicant’s lawful presence in the United States. One version of this form can be used to show eligibility for in-state college tuition.

Park, who moved to Los Angeles, ordered the forms from an intermediary, who then contacted Trejo.

For example, on Feb. 2, 2012, federal authorities said, Park called a cell phone used by the intermediary – and she, in turn, sent a text to cellphone used by Trejo, stating, “Need 200 (A) call me asap, please, valentines is coming,” – an alleged reference to the purchase of approximately 200 I-797A forms.

Park then used a computer to print customers’ information onto the blank, stolen forms, the government said.

What began as a federal sweep in six states blossomed into a June 2012 State Police roundup in North Jersey of 93 accused customers – more than two dozen from Bergen County – who bought driver’s licenses and U.S. visas from the ring.

Some of those originally charged federally live in eastern Bergen County — Cliffside Park, Palisades Park, Fort Lee and Ridgefield — and in Tenafly.

The probe was made possible by another high-profile case brought to federal authorities by Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli.

One of the defendants in that investigation was arrested in Fort Lee while driving a vehicle registered to his wife. Police found several counterfeit IDs in various people’s names, some of which were used to open bogus bank accounts.

This led them to a Bergen County-based “crime superstore” that involved dozens of people who stole identities from their counterparts in Asia to get credit cards and bank loans that were used to buy fancy cars, fine whiskey and designer shoes.

At least one of those caught in that case became a federal informant, infiltrating the organization, getting close to Park, and secretly recording conversations between him and co-conspirators.

Fishman praised the work of the FBI, as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General; and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

He cited “invaluable work” by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and praised the work of Molinelli’s office “for providing the manpower for a vital investigative role throughout.”

He also thanked the New Jersey State Police.

Also cited were the FBI field offices in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, Atlanta, and Richmond, Va., as well as U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of Nevada and the Central District of California.

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