In just one hour, The Post was able to buy a phony green card, Social security card and New York state driver’s license from a stranger on a corner — all of which could serve as a gateway to obtain legitimate IDs.The cards are frighteningly real — convincing enough to fool creditors, potential employers and security at buildings and even the airport.
FAKE-ID ‘EPICENTER’: “Charlie,” “Angel” and a Post reporter await the delivery of fake IDs on a street corner in Jackson Heights, where officials believe at least 10 identity-card forgery mills operate. THREE OF A KIND: The Post’s Candice Giove bought a driver’s license, Social security card and green card, all for $260. “You get that legitimate ID, and this one goes away,” said John Cutter, retired NYPD deputy chief of the Intelligence Division, as he tossed the fake Social Security card in the air.
“The next thing you know, you’re legit even though you never came across the border legally, nobody really knows who you are, you’ve never paid taxes, but now you’re a legitimate citizen, and now you start your history.“That’s the scary part, because, let’s face it, people working in government agencies aren’t always cognizant of the security risks of these things,” said Cutter, who runs a private security company.
On Roosevelt Avenue, known to investigators as the “East Coast epicenter” for fake IDs, officials believe 10 mills operate between 103rd and 76th streets.
In 2007, Queens District Attorney, Richard Brown, netted one of the gang-related groups. It was raking in more than $1 million annually selling the bogus cards on the streets. Investigators found that while most of the ring’s buyers were illegal immigrants, a handful were criminals involved in identity theft.
Five years later, the illegal industry continues to thrive and sellers on the street avoid the watchful eyes of patrol cops and surveillance cameras.Midday on Roosevelt and Forley Street, I asked a man in a leather jacket leaning against a shuttered electronics-store gate if he knew where I could get an ID. He was the first person I approached, and I was already in business.
“You need an ID? What kind?” he asked.“A green card’“Follow me.”It was that easy.The negotiation happened off the main strip, near private homes. He offered a package deal: green and Social security cards for $160. A driver’s license from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut would run another $130, he said. I haggled him down to $260 from $290.
He said to meet in an hour, half-way down a different residential street.“It’s good for you. It’s good for me,” he said. “Too many cops.”Next, he took me to a discount cellphone shop that printed ID pictures. I paid $6 for two passport-size rectangles.The stranger handed me a tiny manila envelope and told me to write out my name, birth date, country of origin and address.“Use a fake one if you want.”I decided to be Canadian.
He programmed my digits into his phone and called me on the spot. “Candice,” he said.
“Well, what’s your name?” “Charlie,” he said. “Could you leave me 20 bucks. Charlie picked out a cafe for me to pass the time in until he returned, and when I told him I was headed to a coffee joint on 88th Street instead, he forbade it because of the police.“Do not go there,” he said emphatically. “Too hot. Go to 82nd Street.”
I did not look back at Charlie, fearing he’d think I was a cop. He was about to pass my manila envelope to a runner who would deliver it to a hidden ID forgery mill.An hour later, Charlie called and ordered me to rendezvous on Forley instead, again with a warning about cops.
He arrived with a bearded friend he called “Angel.” They did not have my ID.We chatted while we waited. The men, both from Mexico, said they were roommates who split a nearby studio.
Suddenly, a man in a blue jacket briskly walking across the street tucked a tiny manila envelope under a blue minivan’s windshield wiper. Charlie crossed and grabbed it.
“It’s here,” he said.The two walked me to a set of secluded steps.“This is your resident card,” Charlie said. “Look at it.”He slipped it into my open purse. It was an older version of the green card. A tiny hologram of my face was on the back. He handed me the other cards. I palmed the money and shook his hand.
“Listen, you have friends who need ID, you send them to me. You got my number,” he said.