Department of Justice Prosecutes Illegal Aliens Who Used Stolen Identities to Find Jobs

Jan 16, 2007, 00:00 ET

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ - Federal identity theft
 charges have been brought against 148 illegal aliens accused of stealing
 the identities of lawful U.S. citizens in order to gain legal employment,
 the Justice Department announced today. One hundred eight defendants have
 been charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory
 minimum sentence of two years imprisonment and is the most serious federal
 identity theft charge. Other federal defendants will be charged with
 illegal reentry by an aggravated felon, document fraud, Social Security
 fraud, and identity theft. State charges of identity theft, forgery and
 criminal impersonation charges are also being pressed against 98 additional
     The aliens being criminally prosecuted were identified as a result of
 Operation Wagon Train, an investigation led by agents from U.S. Immigration
 and Customs Enforcement (ICE) working in conjunction with six U.S.
 Attorney's Offices. Agents executed civil search warrants on December 12,
 2006, at six meat-processing plants owned by Swift & Company (Swift), one
 of the nation's largest processors of fresh pork and beef. In total, ICE
 agents apprehended 1,282 illegal alien workers on administrative
 immigration violations at Swift facilities.
     To date, 148 of the most serious offenders have been charged with
 federal criminal violations. Fifty-three defendants have been charged in
 the Northern District of Texas, 30 in the Southern District of Iowa, 20 in
 the District of Minnesota, 26 in the District of Nebraska, 18 in the
 District of Utah, and one in the District of Colorado. The District
 Attorney in Cache County, Utah (home of a Swift plant), is prosecuting 80
 defendants on charges that include identity theft and forgery and the
 District Attorney in Weld County, Colo. (home of another Swift plant), is
 prosecuting 18 defendants on charges that include identity theft, forgery
 and criminal impersonation.
     "The Justice Department takes identity theft very seriously," said
 Attorney General Gonzales. "We are committed to ensuring that every
 American's identity is protected and that those who commit this crime are
 fully prosecuted."
     "Operation Wagon Train unveiled a clear and disturbing picture. What
 began as an illegal employment investigation uncovered a massive scheme in
 which illegal aliens used the identities of actual U.S. citizens to get
 jobs," said Julie Myers, Department of Homeland Security Assistant
 Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "Our message is simple:
 No employee in any industry who uses a stolen identity is immune from law
 enforcement action."
     Evidence uncovered during Operation Wagon Train, which began in
 February 2006, suggests that illegal aliens assumed the identities of
 actual U.S. citizens and improperly used the stolen Social Security numbers
 and other identity documents in order to gain employment at Swift
     Federal authorities confirmed that many of the names and Social
 Security numbers being used at the Swift plants were reported stolen by
 identity theft victims to the Federal Trade Commission. In many cases,
 victims indicated that they received letters from the Internal Revenue
 Service demanding back taxes for income they had not reported because it
 was earned by someone
     working under their name. Other victims were denied driver's licenses,
 credit, or even medical services because someone had improperly used their
 personal information before.
     The Justice Department has made vigorous efforts to combat identity
 theft in recent years. In fiscal year 2005, the Justice Department
 prosecuted 177 cases of aggravated identity theft. In fiscal year 2006, the
 Justice Department prosecuted 344 such cases, an increase of 94 percent.
     Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales co-chairs the President's Task
 Force on Identity Theft with Deborah Majoras, Chair of the Federal Trade
 Commission (FTC). The Task Force, established by President Bush in May 2006
 and comprised of 17 federal agencies and departments, is developing a
 comprehensive national strategy to fight identity theft which will improve
 the ability of the government and the private sector to bring identity
 thieves to justice, mitigate the risks of identity theft for individuals
 and companies, and assist identity-theft victims in recovering from the
 aftermath of the crime.
     In September, the Identity Theft Task Force adopted interim
 recommendations on measures that can be implemented immediately to combat
 identity theft, prior to publication of the final strategic plan. These
 recommendations will:
     * Provide guidance to federal agencies when data breaches do occur;
     * Develop a universal police report for identity theft victims;
     * Extend restitution to victims of identity theft;
     * Reduce access of identity thieves to Social Security numbers;
     * Develop alternative methods of "authenticating" identities;
     * Improve data security in the government; and
     * Improve agencies' ability to respond to data breaches in government.
     Anyone wishing to ask a question about identity theft or to report
 identity theft may call 1-877-ID-THEFT, or visit the FTC's Web site,, or the Department of Justice's Web site,