An employee of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles was charged Wednesday, July 18, 2012, with producing false driver’s licenses. The charge is the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Vanessa Peguero, 27, of Leominster, Mass., was charged with producing a false identification document. It is alleged that from February 2010 through June 2012, Peguero issued Massachusetts’ driver’s licenses to individuals who presented legitimate Puerto Rican identity documents in an identity other than their own. This was done in order to obtain Massachusetts’ driver’s licenses to conceal their true identities.
If convicted on these charges, Peguero faces up to 15 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
“Fraudulent documents give people the appearance of lawful immigration statuses and provides them with countless opportunities to which they are not entitled,” said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. “Anyone who fraudulently obtains a genuine government ID may pose a threat to public safety. This type of criminal activity allows dangerous criminals to obscure their identities and cover their tracks. Given the potential national security and public safety implications – since this type of crime often allows individuals who may not be in this country lawfully to obtain legitimate U.S. identity documents – Homeland Security Investigations, along with our law enforcement partners in Massachusetts, will continue to aggressively target those participating in or facilitating these types of crimes.”
U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, District of Massachusetts, and Special Agent in Charge Foucart made the announcement July 18.
HSI places a high priority on investigating document and benefit fraud. These types of fraud pose a severe threat to national security and public safety because they create a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States. Document and benefit fraud are elements of many immigration-related crimes, such as human smuggling and human trafficking, critical infrastructure protection, worksite enforcement, visa compliance enforcement and national security investigations. Document fraud, also known as identity fraud, is the manufacturing, counterfeiting, alteration, sale, and/or use of identity documents and other fraudulent documents to circumvent immigration laws or for other criminal activity. Identity fraud in some cases also involves identity theft, a crime in which an imposter takes on the identity of a real person (living or deceased) for some illegal purpose.
HSI’s Identity and Benefit Fraud Unit is charged with investigating and disrupting document and benefit fraud schemes. It coordinates its investigative efforts with other U.S. Department of Homeland Security components, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as other federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Labor. The unit also develops and advances policy initiatives and proposes legislative changes to address vulnerabilities in the immigration process to deter fraud and reduce the incentives for committing document and benefit fraud.
One of the fundamental challenges in combating document fraud at state-level department of motor vehicle (DMV) locations is the identification of employee misconduct. In order to enhance identification efforts, HSI developed an outreach campaign to raise awareness about employee misconduct and alert law enforcement to identity and benefit fraud schemes perpetrated at DMV facilities. HSI encourages the public and DMV employees to report corruption via the HIS tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE and via local DMV tip lines. Reporting this crime gives the public and employees an opportunity to be a part of the solution.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugenia M. Carris.
The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.