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By Bill Parry

The illicit market for fake identification has made Roosevelt Avenue a destination for decades for underage youths looking for “proof” to enter bars and clubs as well as immigrants looking for a fake green card or Social Security card.

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was aware of the problem and was working with law enforcement to prevent false documents from aiding terrorists. State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) has spent nearly a decade trying to remedy the dangerous situation.

His bill to crack down on the fake ID market and other forged official documents was passed unanimously by the state Senate last Friday. The bill toughens the penalties against individuals who manufacture or sell fake IDs, especially government identifications, such as driver’s licenses, passports and Social Security cards.

“This illicit industry does us a lot of harm, and it is still a huge problem in Queens,” Peralta said. “This bill and the new municipal ID program is very bad news for the counterfeit mills operators. We have to crack down on the mills and increase the penalties on these mill operators to eradicate this serious problem.”

The bill prohibits the sale of forged instruments. It also amends the penal code to include the sale and manufacture of government issue documents as a class C felony in the first degree that would carry a penalty of 1 to 15 years behind bars. In addition, it creates the presumption that an individual who possesses two or more forged government documents depicting a person other than him or herself intends to sell those fake documents.

Peralta’s district includes the stretch from 75th to 103rd Streets on Roosevelt Avenue, which is called the “epicenter” of fake ID production and sale by investigators. The fake documents have been at the center of countless illicit episodes from alcohol-related deaths on the roads and terrorist plots to SAT test cheating and identity theft.

“This is an illicit industry that threatens public safety, national security and personal property,” Peralta said.

The legislation moves on to the Assembly where it was expected to be taken up soon.

Meanwhile, Peralta became the first state senator to endorse a new congestion pricing plan. He announced last week that he was supporting the Move NY Fair Plan, a proposal that would lower existing tolls on outer-borough crossings while adding tolls to the currently free East River crossings.

Peralta said the plan would be an effective way to reduce the more than 40 million hours motorists spend stuck in gridlock each year, losing nearly $2.2 billion in lost productivity. He added that Move NY would generate $1.5 billion in net revenue annually that would be invested in improving the city’s transit system and its deteriorating network of roads, bridges and tunnels.

“I believe this plan makes sense and is reasonable and fair,” Peralta said. “This is a chance to bring greater equity in the costs borne by commuters and we can improve our transportation infrastructure and reduce traffic for years to come.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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