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Document and Benefit Fraud

Last defendant in 'Operation Blind Spot' is sentenced

Four defendants were corrupt PennDOT employees

PHILADELPHIA – The last of 22 defendants in a fraudulent driver's license scheme was sentenced Thursday to 60 months in federal prison. This case was investigated by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation's (HSI), the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and the Pennsylvania State Police.

Christopher J. Hahn, 48, of Edgewater, N.J., pleaded guilty in January 2011 to conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, and possessing a fraudulent immigration document. He was part of a scheme that involved bribes to driver's license examiners in exchange for fraudulent driver's licenses. The investigation, dubbed "Operation Blind Spot," resulted in the arrests of 19 individuals for obtaining driver's licenses and other identification documents for individuals who were not eligible to receive driver's licenses, including illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and others.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Berle M. Schiller sentenced Hahn to three years of supervised released and ordered forfeiture in the amount of $2.5 million and a $1.9 million restitution.

"Today's sentencing is the culmination of superb law enforcement work between all of our agencies in Pennsylvania," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Philadelphia. "Fraudulent documents are a direct threat to our national security, and criminals who engage in their production and use will be arrested and brought to justice."

Among the co-defendants were several driving school operators and three PennDOT driver's license examiners who took cash bribes from driver's license applicants. The applicants were sent by other co-defendants, including a northern New Jersey driving school operator. Thousands of official Pennsylvania driver's licenses and identification cards, many containing fraudulent identifying information, were issued to foreign nationals and illegal aliens.

The investigation resulted in charging 10 individuals with operating a 17-year conspiracy to obtain driver's licenses and other fraudulent identification documents for ineligible individuals. The organization, headed by defendant Kakhyun H. Lee and headquartered in northern New Jersey, obtained hundreds of false identities. Lee, a trained artist and Korean national, obtained Korean passports, forged U.S. visas into these passports, and transported hundreds of individuals to Tennessee, Georgia, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to obtain fraudulent identity documents. Lee pleaded guilty in March 2010 and was sentenced to 87 months in prison and 24 months supervised release.

Philadelphia residents, Alexander Steele and Harold Palmer were sentenced to 30 and 18 months, respectively. Anita Levier received three years probation. Among the co-defendants were several driver's license examiners who took thousands of dollars in cash bribes from driver's license applicants without regard to their eligibility to receive licenses.

Additionally, during the operation, $300,000 in cash was seized from Saman H. Salem, also from Philadelphia, which was part of the proceeds of the scheme. Salem also engineered a five-year tax fraud scheme, which was uncovered during the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard J. Zack and David J. Ignall, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, prosecuted this case.