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Document and Benefit Fraud

New Jersey man pleads guilty to conspiracy to make fake identity documents

Fifty-three individuals arrested last year in widespread scheme

NEWARK, N.J. - A Cliffside Park, N.J., man pleaded guilty on Thursday in U.S. District Court to conspiring to fraudulently provide a U.S. Social Security card, a California driver's license and counterfeit Korean passport. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations.

Yu-Je Jo, 37, entered a guilty before U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan on a charge of conspiring to unlawfully produce identification documents. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

On Sept. 26, 2010 he was arrested in a coordinated law enforcement takedown of 53 individuals in connection with a widespread, sophisticated identify theft and fraud operation.

Jo and a co-conspirator with the initials J.N.K. were identity document brokers who conspired to sell identity documents, such as Social Security cards, driver's licenses, and counterfeit passports. As part of the scheme they conspired to provide a genuine, but fraudulently issued U.S. Social Security card and California driver's license and counterfeit Korean passport to another person.

According to court documents, Jo admitted that he and J.N.K. agreed to sell a genuinely issued U.S. Social security card and a counterfeit Korean passport to a person they believed to be a customer, but who in fact was a confidential informant. Jo told the confidential informant the he could use these fraudulently obtained identity documents to engage in credit card fraud and bank fraud. Jo agreed to sell the identity documents for approximately $14,000. He also admitted that the confidential informant made an initial $4,000 cash payment and a subsequent $3,000 cash payment for those documents.

"Document fraud is an extremely lucrative crime, but HSI agents, working with our federal, state and local law enforcement officials are determined to bring these criminals to justice," said Peter T. Edge, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Newark. "Fraudulent documents may be used to obtain financial benefits and entitlements that are intended for US citizens, and also threatens our national security."

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara R. Llanes of the U.S. Attorney's Office Criminal Division in Newark and Anthony Moscato of the U.S. Attorney's Office Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark. The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, under the direction of Prosecutor John L. Molinelli and the Office's Chief of Detectives Steven Cucciniello assisted in the case.

Jo is scheduled for sentencing on August 17, 2011.