More than 200 people have been arrested on charges they manufactured and sold false identification as part of a 120-day investigation run by a collaboration of agencies under the direction of the Queens district attorneys office.
The coalition of local, state and federal agencies was formed in February as Gov. George Patakis Fraudulent Identification Task Force, and since its inception it has shut down six ID mills, arrested 225 people, and seized more than 2,000 forged documents as well as scores of printers, laminators, and computers, according to a release from Patakis office.
A majority of those charged in this investigation are from Queens, said Queens DA Richard Brown, although specific details were not available.
We know that many of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks possessed false and fraudulently obtained identification documents, making it essential that we do our part to crack down on this dangerous illegal enterprise, Pataki said.
Among those arrested in the operation was Department of Motor Vehicle employee Tahirah Zubaidah, of 56-53 Van Cleef St. in Flushing, according to a news release from Patakis office.
Zubaidah is accused of aiding others in illegally obtaining DMV licenses and identification by processing the information without the required documentation, according to the release.
Through aggressive enforcement and improved safeguards in DMVs systems, the task force has successfully disrupted the thriving network that traffics in fraudulent identification documents, said state Inspector General Roslynn Mauskopf. These efforts, together with enhanced penalties, send a clear message that identity theft is simply not worth the risk or trouble to those who may seek to engage in such conduct.
The task force started as a pilot program in Queens, and targeted the boroughs three DMV offices with two locations in Jamaica and one in Flushing which had been seizing between 400 and 500 false documents a month using their enhanced security procedures, the release said.
The task force used a three-pronged approach to uncover cases of fraud, reviewing prior DMV records where applicants identification documents were suspect, assigning task force investigators at the Queens DMV offices, and targeting locations known to be prime sources of fraudulent documents, according to the release from Patakis office.
Private and commercial drivers licenses are the closest our country comes to having a national ID system, said James Kallstrom, Patakis senior advisor for counter-terrorism. This form of identification enables an individual to open a bank account, rent a car, and board an airplane, everyday behaviors that were employed by the 9/11 hijackers in perpetrating their attacks.
Although preventing more terrorist attacks is a top priority in the creation of the task force, other uses of false identification are also being targeted, Brown said.
False and forged documents give terrorists and other criminals the ability to hide their identities and conceal their activities, he said. We want to dry up the sources of false identification documents. We want to hit those who would terrorize our cities and engage in other criminal activities hard by ripping the masks off their faces.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2002 Community News Group
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