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Document and Benefit Fraud

Los Angeles-area man pleads guilty to running counterfeit document operation

FRESNO, Calif. — A Los Angeles-area man pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges stemming from a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) that he conspired with eight others to operate a document counterfeiting ring that sold to buyers in Fresno, Tulare and Madera counties.

Ubaldo Castillo-Hernandez, 41, of Ontario, Calif., admitted in his plea agreement that between January and April he participated in a conspiracy to produce false identification documents. Members of the conspiracy took customers' orders for false identification documents and produced them for as much as $124 a set. The sets included a forged Social Security card and a counterfeit alien registration, or "green card." During the course of the conspiracy, Castillo-Hernandez possessed document-making implements, materials and supplies, and false identification documents, including driver's licenses.

"Trafficking in counterfeit documents poses a serious security vulnerability and contributes to a host of other types of crimes, including identity theft and financial fraud," said Mike Prado, resident agent in charge of HSI Fresno. "These investigations are a top enforcement priority for HSI – our goal is to identify and ultimately dismantle the criminal organizations behind these highly lucrative schemes."

HSI received substantial assistance with the case from the Fresno County Sherriff's Office Air Support Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Baker is prosecuting the case.

Castillo-Hernandez is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 4, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.