BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A booming illegal business busted. A group of men is accused of selling fake IDs to illegal immigrants.
Weijia Jiang has more on how police stopped this multi-million dollar ring.READ MORE: MD SPCA Looking To Keep These Two Dogs, Indigo & Sasha, Together For Life
Federal prosecutors say the 200-block of South Broadway Street in upper Fells Point was home to an elaborate paper mill, where a team churned out thousands of fake immigration documents like Social Security cards and permanent resident cards, then sold them on the street. A 32-count indictment alleges eight defendants brought in nearly $2 million since 2008.
“These defendants had an organization that controlled the neighborhood on Broadway and they used intimidation to prevent anyone from opening up a competing shop,” said U.S. State’s Attorney Rod Rosenstein.
“Most Spanish community moves around here so for them, I think it’s easy to sell here,” said Javier Lopez.
Lopez immigrated to the city 12 years ago. He says for many, getting documents—real or fake—is a matter of survival.
“They need to work, they need papers here so some people, they buy illegal papers to get jobs because they have to take care of their families,” Lopez said.
But community leaders say a crime is a crime, no matter the motive.READ MORE: BWI Airport Art Exhibit Shines Light On Human Trafficking
“As soon as people start breaking the law, it’s the cracked window syndrome. Something starts to happen like that, other things happen and it just gets bad,” said Arthur Perschetz, Fells Point Residents’ Association.
It’s not just people who live here who are stakeholders. Business owners say they’ve battled with this problem for years.
“No papers, no work,” said Nicholas Ramos, who owns Archos.
Ramos says he verifies employee documents with the government to protect his own records.
“We need to make sure it’s legal and make copies of the papers and make a phone call,” Ramos said.
Ramos says taking a chance is not worth it.
Prosecutors say all eight defendants are in this country illegally. Though accused of producing detailed U.S. papers in court Tuesday, they all needed interpreters because they don’t speak English.MORE NEWS: Pause In Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Could Delay Maryland's Goals As Baltimore City Emerges As Potential New Hotspot
Seven men are in police custody. Police are still trying to locate and arrest one more.