HUNTINGTON PARK : Surge Seen in Fake-ID Business
Walking along busy Pacific Boulevard, a street crowded with shops and restaurants, pedestrians are likely to hear “ mica, mica “ being muttered in their direction by several people hanging out at intersections or sitting on the hoods of parked cars.
If any interest is expressed, men with Mexico City accents approach and ask in Spanish what type of identification card is wanted: Social Security, resident alien or driver’s license. One hundred dollars will get you all three.
“ Mica (pronounced MEE-cah) is the word these guys use to describe fake IDs,” said police Officer Danny Dominguez. Dominguez regularly patrols Pacific Boulevard and its environs by mountain bike or squad car. A six-year officer, Dominguez, 37, has seen a sharp increase in the Southeast cities’ counterfeit identification industry.
So have many Huntington Park residents.
“When I walk to work in the morning, they come up to me and ask: ‘You want mica? You want mica? ,’ ” said Patricia Guerra, 19, who sells fresh juice at El Gallo Giro restaurant at Pacific Boulevard and Florence Avenue.
Last month, police raided a pharmacy and a bar in the 6900 block of Pacific Boulevard and recovered a laminating machine, photo equipment and fraudulent California driver’s licenses and resident alien, Social Security and state identification cards. Twenty-nine were arrested in the raid, 25 of whom were deported to Mexico by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
And yet the city’s counterfeit ID industry continues to grow.
“As long as there’s a demand for these cards, people will sell them,” Dominguez said.
Police said local store owners increasingly complain of a rise in fake-ID sales, saying such illegal activity hurts their businesses. Friction between store owners and those enterprising enough to capitalize on the situation of poor immigrants illustrates the scope of this growing problem, officers said.
Those transporting illegal immigrants across the border and those providing them with phony identification sometimes work together, said Detective Chuck Antuna of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Antuna, who has tracked ID counterfeiters for the past four years, said that for about $1,000 a coyote will transport an individual from Tijuana to Los Angeles. Included in the deal is a set of counterfeit identification cards and a trip to a temporary agency for job placement. Since many employers only hire temps for a few days, they don’t check identification too closely, Antuna said.
When those in possession of the fake documents are discovered, however, they are often surprised to be detained and deported. “A lot of the (immigrants) from deeper in Mexico think this is the way it works here,” said Dominguez. “They aren’t aware the cards they have are illegal.”
According to evidence collected by local police and the Sheriff’s Department, a sophisticated organization with origins in the Mexico City underworld has firmly established itself in the local trade of illegal IDs. The “DF” gang, street parlance for the Mexican government’s Federal District encompassing Mexico City, is comprised almost entirely of streetwise men from the Mexican capital. Members dress, act and talk differently from other gangs in the area, law enforcement officials said.
After training in Mexico City’s busy center, where they sell fake ID cards to fresh rural arrivals, DF members then come to Los Angeles, where the big money is to be made, Antuna said. On an average day, a miquero, someone who sells micas, makes about $300 here, compared to about $9 back in Mexico, he said.
“They resemble more organized crime than street crime,” said Sgt. James Lally of the Sheriff’s Department. “It’s not like anything we’ve seen in the last 20 years.”
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