Korean Nationals Arrested In Elaborate Driver's License Scheme

Immigration and DMV officials present evidence of illegal driver's license scheme ranging from computer equipment to forged passports at Artesia investigations office.

Two Korean nationals arrested for allegedly masterminding an elaborate scheme to obtain valid California driver's licenses and state identifications cards for undocumented Asian immigrants will be facing arraignment today in Bakersfield.

Officials arrested Dae Wan Ahn, 49, of Diamond Bar, and Chong Hwan Kim, 47, of Norwalk, on Wednesday following a 16-month investigation by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

Both men were booked into the county jail on suspicion of multiple felonies, including perjury, forgery, conspiracy, the manufacture and distribution of false documents and using a false document to conceal citizenship, according to officials. 

During a news conference at the DMV Investigations Office in Artesia on Thursday, officials displayed dozens of items allegedly seized from the homes and businesses of Ahn and Cho, including counterfeit passports and identification cards, credit cards, social security cards and computers.

“We found not only the use of Canadian passports but also valid U.S. Social Security numbers issued in the [Northern] Mariana Islands to individuals who have the right to remain and work in the United States,” said Bernardo Madrid, supervisory special agent for the Department of Homeland Security.

“We know who and why they have them, but how they got them is still being investigated,” Madrid added.

According to ICE, both men are suspected of altering Canadian passports and legitimate Social Security numbers from Chinese workers in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean, in order to make their clients eligible to obtain driver’s licenses.

The search warrant affidavits and investigation by DMV and ICE indicate that those involved in the scheme charged between $3,500 to $5,000 to obtain valid California driver's licenses for clients, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said.

According to officials, a DMV manager in Bakersfield noticed irregularities in a Canadian passport submitted by an Asian woman seeking a driver's license in Jan. 2010. The irregularities included basic information that had been newly added, new signature pages and an altered photograph.

This prompted the investigation that led to the arrest of the suspects in Los Angeles.

Madrid said ICE and the DMV are seeking 214 individuals -- mainly from Korea and China -- related to the case, but he admitted that more people could be involved in this operation.

Investigators say Ahn and Kim, who described themselves as "arrangers," recruited clients through advertisements in Korean newspapers and by word of mouth.

Since officers made the arrests Wednesday, investigators have yet to process fully the evidence found in the homes and businesses of Ahn and Kim.

“Once we get the forensics on the computers, we’re hoping a lot more information will track down the people who utilized or who were part of this scheme,” said Eric Light, supervising investigator for the DMV, adding that more arrests were being anticipated. 

DMV Director George Valverde believes that the investigations and subsequent arrests send a strong message:

"Activities related to fraudulently obtaining a California driver's license simply will not be tolerated."

Ed Carrasco May 20, 2011 at 05:46 PM
@ann nevile Not to be rude but your sentences don't quite make sense.
Scodent May 20, 2011 at 07:08 PM
In response to Ed Carrasco at 10:18am, you may not need to be a US citizen to obtain a driver license but in most states an individual must provide proof that they are in the US legally BEFORE a driver license or identification card is issued. Employers looking to hire US citizens or legal immigrants should insist on seeing a valid driver license from their home state but because of counterfeitors it is becoming harder for untrained individuals to identify if a presented driver license document or social security card with a social security number is valid or a fake. This is one of the main reasons why Identity theft has become the No. 1 complaint of US consumers.
magyart May 21, 2011 at 03:19 AM
Visit the NumbersUSA and ALIPAC websites and help us fight illegal immigration.
magyart May 21, 2011 at 03:22 AM
If found guilty, Ahn and Chod should possibly lose their home and business, if they were purchased or financed by their illegal acts.
magyart May 21, 2011 at 03:22 AM
If you oppose illegal immigration, please remember to oppose any politician that supports illegal residents.


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