Illegal Aliens Turn To Identity Theft ..................... (Wait Till Victims Try To Retire......!!!)
updated 6:15 p.m. PT, Tues., Jan. 8, 2008
When U.S. Air Force veteran Marcos Miranda had his identity stolen, he went from being a valued customer and employee to a government statistic — one of thousands of identity theft victims caught up each year in the crackdown on illegal immigrants.
Identity theft has been a growing worry in the United States, but a rise in federal prosecutions of immigrants offers a new wrinkle on the problem. As better systems are developed for verifying employment, illegal immigrants are assuming the names and government-issued ID numbers of Americans like Miranda to thwart detection at workplaces, get driver's licenses and obtain credit.
Miranda first learned someone else was using his identity in 2000 when he was arrested on a warrant for unpaid traffic tickets at the border after a visit to relatives in Mexico. The 24-year-old Texas man was released after paying a $340 fine for violations he never incurred. Although his money was eventually returned, his nightmare was just beginning.
The most common start to identity theft is for the perpetrator get hold of someone's Social Security number, which is part of the system used to record people's earnings for federal retirement benefits. Once a person takes a job in the U.S., the first thing his employer will likely ask for is his or her Social Security number.
In Miranda's case, that's why he has gotten repeated letters from the federal tax officials demanding thousands of dollars in back taxes for wages paid to someone using his name and Social Security number to work at a pork slaughterhouse in Holton, Kansas. Miranda watched his once-high credit rating plummet as creditors reported unpaid bills incurred by others.
"Even though I am Hispanic, I am against illegal immigration," Miranda said. "Even though a lot of them come to work, there are always bad apples. (Identity theft) has really made my perspective ... negative about immigration."
A Mexican national accused of stealing Miranda's identity pleaded guilty last month to one count of using fraudulent documents in a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Joel Rojas-Morales, 27, will be sentenced in March.
"That way he knows crime doesn't pay in America. Maybe in Mexico it does. But here, it may take some time, but the long arm of the law catches up to you," Miranda said.
Chris Joseph, the defense attorney representing Rojas-Morales, is sympathetic to identity theft victims like Miranda.
"I have no reason to doubt that is absolutely true. There is no question he is a victim of identity theft," Joseph said.