Charges against 22 people were unsealed today and federal agents made 17 arrests in New Jersey and five other states in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain driver’s licenses for illegal aliens and other ineligible people.
Some of those charged live in eastern Bergen County — Cliffside Park, Palisades Park, Fort Lee and Ridgefield — and in Tenafly.
The defendants also include a contract employee of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) who is charged with stealing and providing forms used to aid in the scheme.
The operation “provided a suite of unlawful services to individuals illegally residing in the United States, including fraudulently obtaining driver’s licenses, and investor and student visas,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said.
Federal court appearances were scheduled this afternoon for those arrested earlier today.
They include alleged brokers nationwide who “recruited and served customers looking for a valid driver’s license to legitimize their illegal presence in the United States,” Fishman said.
“By allegedly 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.”
Michael Ward, the Special Agent in Charge of the Newark FBI Office, added that the defendants “were able to utilize sophisticated computer software to create false identity documents and subsequently move to receive legitimate driver’s licenses.
“In doing so, they were able to circumvent established safeguards and proper vetting put into place post-9/11. The exploitation of this vulnerability is significant because identity-type frauds are a gateway crime,” Ward added. “Seldom are they the end game.
“Individuals with falsely obtained identities are more likely to commit financial frauds, walk away from legal obligations, and are more difficult for law enforcement to identify and investigate.”
According to the Complaints unsealed today:
Young-Kyu Park, formerly a resident of Fort Lee, N.J., and currently a resident of Los Angeles, was the leader of a criminal enterprise (“the Park Criminal Enterprise”) operating in Palisades Park and Fort Lee, N.J., as well as in other states.
The Park Criminal Enterprise illegally obtained driver’s licenses genuinely issued by New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Nevada, and elsewhere. To do so, it acquired, created, and counterfeited a variety of documents for sale to customers. Members of the Park Criminal Enterprise also escorted customers to various state motor vehicle agencies and coached them through obtaining the licenses. In return, customers each paid the Park Criminal Enterprise a fee of approximately $3,000 to $4,500 for the unlawful services.
In particular, Young-Kyu Park fraudulently obtained, completed and sold 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.
The Park Criminal Enterprise also altered and counterfeited other immigration documents, including passports, and created and provided fictitious documents to customers – such as fictitious utility bills and bank statements used to establish residency requirements. In furtherance of the scheme, Young-Kyu Park and his co-conspirators fraudulently extended expired Korean passports of individuals without legal status in the United States so they could obtain driver’s licenses. These illegal services were, at times, advertised in Korean newspapers and online with headings such as, “New Jersey Driver’s License.”
Young-Kyu Park obtained blank I-797 forms from Karine Michmichian and Martin Trejo, a USCIS contract employee working at the USCIS’ Western Forms Center in Montclair, Calif. – the United States’ largest warehouse storage facility for these forms. At various times, Young-Kyu Park ordered the forms from Michmichian, who contacted Trejo.
For example, on Feb. 2, 2012, Young-Kyu Park called a cell phone used by Michmichian. Approximately two minutes later she sent a text message to a cell phone 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.
Young-Kyu Park then used a computer to print customers’ information onto the blank, stolen forms.
The Park Criminal Enterprise maintained a network of co-conspirators in New Jersey, Nevada, Georgia, and Virginia that met with customers. Young-Kyu Park often communicated with his co-conspirators in various states through email.
For example, on Nov. 3, 2011, Young-Kyu Park sent an email to a cooperating witness, stating, “Not sure if [you] have received [the customer’s] passport from Director Kim [Ki-Sok Kim]. Must receive the passport and extend it. When extending passport . . . [sic] set the period to 11/3/2011-11/2/2016 . . [sic] issue date should be 11/2/2011.” In the same email, Young-Kyu Park directed the cooperating witness to then send the altered passport, via Federal Express, to Ho-man Lee, a co-conspirator in Alexandria, Va., who helped customers to illegally get licences in that state.
Members of the Park Criminal Enterprise, including Young-Kyu Park’s wife, Soong-Young Park, and his daughter, Hanna Park, laundered the proceeds of the illegal operation to distribute the proceeds and conceal the scheme.
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.
Fishman cited “invaluable work” by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission and praised the work of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office “for providing the manpower for a vital investigative role throughout.”
He also thanked the New Jersey State Police.
Also thanked 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.
Prosecuting the case are Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Moscato and Lisa M. Colone of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Organized Crime/Gangs unit in Newark.
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