For the past few weeks, the news has focused on all the blood being shed on our southern border. While there is no doubt that this activity is scary and real, these gangs have to be a little more low key when they perform their day-to-day operations.
In order to do this, they need to blend in with the rest of us. When setting up residence to operate their illegal businesses, these criminals need to appear legitimate. The way they do this is with a wide variety of counterfeit documents. These counterfeit documents enable the rest of the illegal activity to occur, which makes them a weapon that could be a lot more dangerous than an assault rifle, IED or RPG.
Although the news media is drawing attention to this problem (yet again) because of the violence on the border, the violence and resulting concerns about border security are nothing new. Neither is the use of counterfeit documents by the criminals crossing over the border and setting up residence in the United States.
A PBS Frontline story from 2001 illustrates the worst case scenario of this problem. It details how terrorists are specifically trained to use counterfeit documents to move across borders. The story states that using counterfeit documents is part of the security training of Al Qaeda operatives. This story also states that the terrorists affiliate themselves with organized criminal syndicates that smuggle humans and provide counterfeit documents to accomplish this.
If an undesirable person has documents that appear to be legitimate, it’s no problem to cross a border or set up residence in a neighborhood just about anywhere.
Because of this, the plea bargain made with Pedro Castorena-Ibarra — who allegedly masterminded the production of high quality counterfeit documents from coast to coast — is an interesting chapter in the long running border security saga. Quite simply, these counterfeit documents enable all kinds of criminal and some say, potential terrorist activity.
At one time, Pedro Castorena-Ibarra was considered one of ICE's most wanted fugitives. A five year investigation uncovered his involvement in the production of millions of counterfeit documents, which were sold to anyone with the money to buy them. The plea bargain stipulates that Castorena will testify against other people in the counterfeit documents trade. When doing the research on this, I noticed that there isn't very much public information on exactly who he is going to testify against.
One of the problems with prosecuting Castorena came about when a lead ICE agent assigned to the case, Cory Voorhis was indicted for using a government intelligence system in an unauthorized manner. While working the Castorena case, Voorhis decided to take a look at former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter's plea bargains with illegal immigrants.