HSI probe leads to federal charges against 3 Los Angeles-area men for running counterfeit document ring that created and sold dozens of false passports, IDs
LOS ANGELES — Two San Fernando Valley men were arraigned today on a federal grand jury indictment alleging they were part of a prolific document trafficking ring that created and sold counterfeit U.S. passport cards, Social Security cards, driver’s licenses and other documents, the result of a probe by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
Carlos Ayala Hernandez, a.k.a. “Juan Juarez,” 44, of Granada Hills, the 19-count indictment’s lead defendant; and Nestor Perez, a.k.a. “Daniel Perez,” 32, of Van Nuys, each pleaded not guilty to one conspiracy count, nine counts of production of false identification documents, seven counts of transferring false identification documents and one count of possession of five or more false identification documents. Hernandez also pleaded not guilty to one count of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.
On February 19, a third defendant named in the indictment – Miguel Juarez Guerrero, 23, of Van Nuys – pleaded not guilty to 18 charges related to the fake document mill.
According to the indictment filed on Feb. 9, from Jan. 2016 to Jan. 2021, Hernandez, Guerrero and Perez conspired to produce false identification documents that appeared to have been issued by the U.S. government, and driver’s licenses purporting to be from multiple states, including California, Wyoming and Pennsylvania.
Hernandez and Guerrero allegedly received orders, some by text message, from customers seeking specific false identification documents. Hernandez and Guerrero then notified Perez, who manufactured and stored the fake IDs at a Van Nuys apartment used solely to produce the counterfeit documents. After the fake IDs were ready, Hernandez and Guerrero allegedly notified customers and arranged for pickup times and places, usually in the parking lots of restaurants or pharmacies - in exchange for cash.
On Jan. 7, 2021, HSI special agents executed a search warrant at the Van Nuys residence. They found the defendants possessed 21 U.S. passport cards; 68 Social Security cards; five Lawful Permanent Resident cards (commonly known as “green cards”); two Employment Authorization Document cards;135 driver’s licenses;11 foreign identification documents for Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Peru; and, approximately 1,000 fraudulent authentication seals, according to the indictment. On the same date, Hernandez allegedly possessed $40,000 in cash at his residence.
The three defendants in this case were arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint on January 27.
An April 6 jury trial date has been scheduled. The charges related to the counterfeit documents each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison. If convicted of all charges in the document, the defendants would face potential sentences of decades in prison.
This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California’s General Crimes Section.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 Special Agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.