BUFFALO, N.Y. — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Buffalo announced Wednesday the formation of the agency's newest Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force.
"The fraudulent use of identification documents, both real and counterfeit may allow the bearer to board an aircraft, improperly obtain a government benefit or allow a criminal to remain in the shadows undetected. These crimes represent a very real threat to our public safety and the security of our nation," said James Spero, special agent in charge for HSI Buffalo. "Through the combined authorities and expertise of the agencies that partner on the task force, this task force establishes a unified effort to minimize these threats to this nation."
Document fraud is the manufacturing, sale, or use of counterfeit identity documents such as fake driver's licenses, birth certificates, Social Security Cards or passports for immigration fraud or other criminal activity. Document fraud also involves efforts to obtain genuine identity documents through fraudulent means and often supports the crime of benefit fraud.
Benefit fraud is the misrepresentation or omission of material fact on an application to obtain an immigration benefit one is not entitled to, such as U.S. citizenship, political asylum or a valid visa. Because these benefits provide the ability to freely enter, work or reside in the United States, they are highly valued by illegal aliens, terrorists and other criminals.
Using false and fraudulent documents to obtain government benefits is a threat to national security and undermines the integrity and fairness of all government programs, and the U.S. immigration system. The coordinated interagency efforts of these task forces will help prevent future abuses while enabling the identification of criminals who utilize and manufacture false documentation.
"ICE HSI Buffalo is to be commended for bringing together law enforcement officers from all levels of government to investigate these serious issues for our country," said U.S. Attorney William Hochul. "Those who produce false documents and identities in order to obtain government benefits not only harm taxpayers, they pose a clear and present danger for our nation's security. Criminals should be assured that this Office will work closely with the Task Force in order ensure that the laws regarding illegal documents and benefit application are vigorously enforced."
Led by HSI, the task forces were created in April 2006, to target, seize illicit proceeds of, and dismantle the criminal organizations that threaten national security and public safety and address the vulnerabilities that currently exist in the immigration process. Through the task force, HSI partners with approximately 70 different Federal, State and local law enforcement entities across the nation.
With the addition of the Buffalo task force, there are now a total of 20 taskforces across the country: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Saint Paul, Minn., Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Washington/Northern Virginia.
From April 2006 to Dec. 31, 2013, the task forces have made 5,097 criminal arrests and seized more than $46.5 million in cash and assets.