Local News

3 Charged With Making Bogus Documents

Posted March 28, 2007 1:01 p.m. EDT
Updated March 28, 2007 7:00 p.m. EDT

— Three illegal immigrants were arrested Wednesday after Hoke County authorities broke up what they called a mill that churned out phony identification documents.

Mallely G. Hernandez, of 200 McDuffie St. in Raeford, Gustavo Mateo St. Augustine, of 130 B.J. Court in Red Springs, and Joel P. Zalazar, of 100 Sheppard Lane in Raeford, face charges of identity fraud and trafficking and distribution of false documents, authorities said. Each is being held in the Hoke County Jail on a $300,000 bond.

Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said all three men are in the U.S. illegally and were furnishing fake documents to other illegal immigrants.

"WIth the growing situation of people coming into our state and country illegally, they want to get moving fast, they want to fit in fast. This is a way people can make money," Peterkin said at a news conference.

Authorities raided three houses Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, including one less than a block from the Hoke County Sheriff's Office, and seized dozens of phony driver's licenses, Social Security cards, birth certificates and auto insurance cards. The documents were used to help illegal immigrants obtain jobs and buy cars, authorities said.

Peterkin said members of an established ring would arrange to pick up illegal immigrants being brought to North Carolina and handle their living arrangements and get them documentation -- all for a fee.

The U.S. Secret Service is assisting the Hoke County Sheriff's Office in the investigation, and more arrests are likely, he said.

"A lot of the IDs that were produced that were fake have legitimate numbers on them," Peterkin said. "Unless you know what you're looking for, just looking at it, it looks real."

About $7,000 in cash, as well as jewelry and computer equipment, were also seized in the raids. Laptops were used to produce the phony documents, he said.

"They get the type of papers, they get the plastic they need, they do all the lamination," he said.

It's unclear how the suspects obtained legitimate driver's license and Social Security numbers, he said, adding that they might have found lost or discarded licenses or searched through trash to obtain financial information.

"We have people, on a day-to-day basis, their job is to look for this stuff," he said, adding that people should shred all old documents containing personal information.