Federal agent says Central Florida is hotbed for sale of fraudulent documents

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Homeland Security Investigations agents who arrested two men accused of putting thousands of counterfeit Social Security cards and green cards on the streets of Central Florida said the region is a hotbed for such crime.

Special Agent in Charge James Spero said a task force was created more than 10 years ago to investigate fraudulent documents and benefits crimes in the Orlando area.

"Fraud documents make it easier for criminals to embed themselves into society, make them appear to be legal," he said.

Spero said Gerardo Ibarra was known for being Kissimmee's go-to man for counterfeit documents.

Investigators said Ibarra admitted to selling about 2,000 sets of documents and some fraudulent driver's licenses over a span of two years.

"He's the vendor," Spero said. "He's the one on the street making the contact with the customers."

The owner of a phone and computer repair store who was accused of making the documents was also arrested, officials said.

But identifying those who bought the documents has proven challenging.

"It's very, very difficult," Spero said. "It's almost impossible."

He said the people who sell fraudulent documents don't do background checks on customers and most buyers likely don't use their real names, so there's not much of a paper trail.

Spero said he believes that many buyers are undocumented immigrants seeking employment, but others might be criminals trying to hide or terrorists trying to blend in.

"You don't know who's running around ... with these documents or where they are," he said.

Spero said an average of five people are arrested per day nationwide for selling fraudulent documents.

HSI, the U.S. Secret Service and area law enforcement agencies are part of the task force that seeks to crack down on such crimes.