ICE Boston and US Attorney announce sentencings in major document and benefit fraud cases
BOSTON – ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Boston and the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts announced the sentencing in federal court yesterday of several Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles clerks for their role in a scheme to produce false identification documents.
David Brimage, 46, of Boston, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin to eight months in prison and two years of supervised release. In October 2017, Brimage and co-conspirators Evelyn Medina, 56; Annette Gracia, 37, both of Boston; Kimberly Jordan, 33, of Randolph; and Bivian Yohanny Brea, 41, of Boston, agreed to plead guilty to one count of producing without lawful authority an identification document or a false identification document. All of the defendants have now been sentenced.
“The conduct in this case was egregious. We will always hold accountable those who violate the public trust,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “While these defendants tried to profit by thwarting legal safeguards they were entrusted with enforcing, the crime was more than that – the defendants engaged in a scheme that made U.S. identity documents – and accompanying benefits – available to illegal immigrants who were not entitled to them.”
In December 2017, Angel Miguel Beltre Tejada, 32, a Dominican national illegally residing in Jamaica Plain, was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft. Tejada will also be subject to deportation proceedings upon completion of any sentence imposed. In January 2018, Medina and Gracia were sentenced to 15 months in prison and one year and one day in prison, respectively. In February 2018, Jordan was also sentenced to eight months in prison and Brea was sentenced to six months of home confinement and three years of supervised release.
In October 2015, law enforcement received an anonymous letter alleging that a corrupt RMV employee was providing Massachusetts identifications and drivers’ licenses to individuals who were using false identifications. An investigation revealed that several Haymarket RMV clerks – Medina, Gracia, Jordan, and Brimage – were working with Brea and Tejada to fraudulently provide Massachusetts licenses and identification cards to illegal aliens for cash.
The scheme involved several steps. Tejada and Brea would obtain identification documents belonging to United States citizens in Puerto Rico and sell them to clients who were seeking legitimate identities in Massachusetts. These clients included illegal aliens, individuals who were previously deported, and an individual who admitted to previously facing drug charges. Tejada would receive several hundred dollars in cash each time he sold identification documents. Brea received up to $2,700 per identity for her role in the scheme, which included helping clients obtain the documents and facilitating their acquisition of Massachusetts identity documents.
Typically, Brea and the client brought the stolen identities to the Haymarket RMV, where Medina, Gracia, Jordan, and/or Brimage would accept hundreds of dollars in cash to illegally issue authentic RMV documents, including Massachusetts licenses and ID cards. The clerks also accepted bribes to use the RMV’s system to run queries, including Social Security number audits, to confirm that the identities the clients were stealing actually belonged to verifiable individuals.
HSI Acting SAC Shea, U.S. Attorney Lelling, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Office of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service William Gannon, and Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, made the announcement. HSI’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugenia M. Carris of Lelling’s Public Corruption & Special Prosecutions Unit prosecuted the cases.
So what about E-Verify? Glad you asked…
Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, a libertarian think-tank in Washington, D.C., said the E-Verify system accepts passports, Social Security cards and other documents submitted by job applicants even if they are fraudulent — which is the way most undocumented immigrants secure employment.
Nowrasteh said “a large portion of employers still don’t use it for new hires” because they know that government audits of traditional paper forms are so few and far between.
Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research for the Economic Policy Institute, a pro-labor think tank based in Washington, D.C., agreed with that assessment. He noted that even though audits of the I-9 forms soared during the Obama administration, an average of only 2,000 workplaces — including some enrolled in E-Verify — were audited annually during the eight years Barack Obama was president.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees the E-Verify program, an estimated 763,500 employers were taking part in the program as of Jan. 16.
That sounds like a lot, but it’s only a tiny percentage of the more than 18 million businesses in the U.S.
The reason for the low participation rate is that the program is voluntary in most states. It’s mandatory in most of the U.S. only for businesses that have been caught hiring undocumented immigrants.
The Social Security Administration estimated that 1.8 million immigrants were working with fake or stolen Social Security cards in 2010 — and that number is projected to reach 3.4 million by 2040.
Companies that don’t use E-Verify require jobseekers to fill out the I-9 forms to check work eligibility. The employers then must certify that the documents provided by the applicant appear to be genuine.
With such a low chance of being audited, Costa said, the whole job-authorization system is “a wink and a nod from the government to employers” that lets them continue to hire workers who are not in the U.S. lawfully.
The Cato Institute’s Nowrasteh argues that E-Verify exists simply because it allows politicians to claim the U.S. is being tough on immigration without actually having to be tough.
“Nobody wants to shut down businesses. That’s expensive politically and economically,” he said. “It’s much easier to have a system that doesn’t work (but which) sounds like a silver bullet.”
Calls for “mandatory E-Verify” — particularly among immigration hardliners in the Republican Party — have been increasing in recent weeks as Congress wrestles with the “Dreamer” issue. And polls have shown that more than two-thirds of the American public believe the E-Verify should be mandatory.
Capitalizing on that sentiment, Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who sits on the House Judiciary and Homeland Security committees, recently introduced a measure to require all employers to use the program. “By expanding the E-Verify system to all U.S. employers, this bill will ensure that jobs only go to legal workers,” Smith said. More here.