Crooks Sold More than 5,000 Fake Documents to Illegal Immigrants

A Sacramento-based fraud ring sold more than 5,000 fake Social Security cards, driver's licenses, green cards and birth certificates mainly to illegal immigrants over a two-year period, federal officials said Thursday as they wrapped up prosecution of those involved.

The documents were made in a south Sacramento hotel room and sold for as little as $50 and as much as thousands of dollars - "whatever the market would bear," said Sgt. John Castiglia of the Sacramento Police Department. He estimated the ring took in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"They were customer friendly and would go wherever to make a sale," Castiglia said.

Patrick Durkin, who heads the San Francisco field office of the U.S. State Department's Diplomiatic Security Services, said U.S. identification documents "are some of the most coveted documents in the world. These fraudulent document crimes make the United States more vulnerable to terrorism, plain and simple."

The officials held a news conference after JoAnn Ramirez, 48, of Sacramento, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit document fraud and Social Security fraud, sale
of citizenship documents and possession of false identification documents.

She was the last of five ring members to be sentenced.

The leader, Sonny Rudy Martinez, 31, of Sacramento, was sentenced in March to 40 months in prison. Three others were handed shorter prison terms in February.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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