The arrest of a Salvadoran man at a Sunny Isles Beach government center led federal authorities to detect a possible identity theft ring in Palm Beach County, federal court documents show.
Manuel Antonio Espinosa Gómez, 45, was arrested Nov. 24 and in a subsequent interrogation admitted paying $100 for a fake driver’s license and a green card that belonged to another person from two individuals in Lake Worth, according to a criminal complaint filed by a Border Patrol agent.
After first pleading not guilty on Dec. 11, Espinosa Gómez changed his plea to guilty Jan. 6. He has since been sentenced to time served and ordered to surrender to immigration authorities for deportation.
The case began Nov. 24 when Espinosa Gómez arrived at the Sunny Isles Beach government center at 18070 Collins Avenue, the criminal complaint said. He was there to have his fingerprints taken for an employment background check.
“The defendant presented a counterfeit Florida driver’s license to a city government employee in the lobby,” the criminal complaint says. “After further inspection of the driver’s license by a Sunny Isles police officer located in the building, the defendant was asked for additional identification, and he presented a valid social security card and an expired employment authorization card.”
Officials then asked Espinosa Gómez for additional identification, and he said he had a photocopy of his Salvadoran passport in his car, the complaint said.
The police officer in the building went to the car and retrieved the photocopy, but he also found the green card, according to the complaint.
When immigration officials checked the green card, they realized it belonged to another person, the complaint says.
In a subsequent interrogation, Espinosa Gómez acknowledged that he bought the driver’s license and green card from two different individuals in Lake Worth, the complaint says.
Lake Worth, located south of West Palm Beach and north of Boynton Beach, has a large community of undocumented immigrants from Central America and Mexico.
U.S. immigration officials have long maintained that many undocumented immigrants routinely buy fraudulent driver’s licenses or green cards to demonstrate legal residence to employers who often do not verify the documents.
This is one of the reasons why some officials have pushed for mandatory implementation of a national immigration document verification system known as E-Verify.
Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy