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Thousands of cards issued in Saipan sold to illegal immigrants

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Mar. 2, 2009) – Thousands of social security account cards issued on Saipan to Chinese nationals were sold to illegal immigrants in the United States within a five-year period, according to a 156-page criminal complaint filed on Feb. 24 in the U.S. District Court of Illinois against 19 persons engaged in the fraudulent scheme in Chicago.

Between Jan. 1, 2003, and Dec. 10, 2008, approximately 16,666 Illinois driver's licenses and identification cards were issued to individuals using social security numbers with a "586" prefix.

Social security cards with a "586" prefix are assigned in Saipan, Guam, American Samoa, and the Philippines.

But a "large portion" of these social security cards were legally obtained through legal means by Chinese nationals temporarily working on Saipan, according to the criminal complaint filed by David A. Patch, special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In contrast, between 1970 and 2002 or prior to the alleged operation of the crime group, only about 787 Illinois driver's licenses and identification cards were issued using social security account numbers with the prefix "586."

Saipan was home to 15,000 foreign garment workers mostly from China during the garment industry's peak years.

But between 2003 and 2008 when the selling of Saipan-issued social security account cards were happening in Illinois as indicated in the criminal complaint, Saipan garment factories were beginning to close one after another due to the lifting of world trade rules. As a result, garment factories on Saipan moved to countries such as China and Vietnam where the minimum wage is much cheaper than the CNMI's.

The U.S. Social Security Administration, which has an office on Saipan at the MHC-II Building in the Garapan/Puerto Rico area, issues social security account cards to U.S. citizens and foreign workers.


A total of 19 people, including two former Illinois Secretary of State’s office employees, were indicted on Feb. 24 for running the alleged phony ID scheme in the Chinatown neighborhood on the Near South Side of Illinois.

Those indicted were involved in selling "identity sets" to predominantly Chinese, Korean and Indonesian nationals who have been illegally smuggled into the U.S.

Typically, customers will pay between $1,200 and $3,500 to purchase an identity set.

On page 7 of the 156-page criminal complaint filed by the FBI, a statement reads: "Further investigation of the social security account cards utilized by this criminal enterprise has revealed that a large portion of the cards were originally obtained through legal means by Chinese nationals temporarily working in Saipan."

"Upon the return of these temporary workers to the Peoples Republic of China or while still in Saipan, their issued social security account cards were collected and transported in bulk to the U.S. for eventual use by this criminal enterprise," said the criminal complaint.

Given that the original holders of these social security account cards remain in China, the illegitimate use of such cards and their associated numbers is feasible within the U.S. without problems arising from having more than one person using a given social security account number.

As part of the criminal enterprises' fraudulent document operation, manufacturers alter either counterfeit or authentic Peoples Republic of China passports to contain a customer's photographs, as well as alter the passport's biographical page in order to match the identity of an authentic social security account card of a third party.

After preparation of such documents, related brokers and couriers assist customer with using these documents to fraudulently obtain Illinois driver's licenses or identification cards from various Illinois driver services facilities.

The investigation by the Chicago Division of the FBI and the Chicago Police Department started in late 2005.

Throughout the investigation, the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General has been consulted on numerous occasions.

The defendants include two former Secretary of State’s office workers. They allegedly assisted non-English-speaking customers pass the English version of the driver's license exam by providing an alpha-numeric series of rules to memorize answers.

If customers failed or did not want to take the road test, they could pay more to defendants who bribed the Secretary of State employees to alter or forge test results.

Saipan Tribune http://www.saipantribune.com


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