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Traffic stop leads to forgery probe

August 10, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

A motorist running a red light more than a year ago prompted an investigation by Chambersburg police that led to the arrests of two men last week for selling forged identity papers and the arrests of others in the past year for possessing them.

One of the suspected forgers, Richard Bravo-Rivera, an illegal immigrant from Peru, was scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Franklin County Central Court but it was postponed, according to the Court Administrator's Office.

Police issued a release Tuesday that stated the department became involved April 19, 2004, when an officer pulled over a motorist for a traffic violation. Police discovered that the man's driver's license and insurance card were forged.

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"Investigators with the State Farm Insurance Agency advised that they have been investigating an ongoing problem with the forged cards, mainly in the Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York areas," according to the release. The problem was spreading to other counties and also involved other insurance companies, according to the release.

In the following months, police began to look more closely at identification during traffic stops and at accident scenes, and more phony insurance cards turned up, along with forged resident-alien and U.S. Social Security cards, and foreign and domestic birth certificates and driver's licenses, the release stated.

Bravo-Rivera, 30, who was arrested Aug. 3 under the name Gabriel Angel Cruz, of 818 S. Fourth St., is charged with three counts of felony forgery. Pablo Olvera-Uribe, 34, of 368 W. Loudon St., was arrested Friday on three counts of felony forgery.

Detective William Frisby said Tuesday, however, that a half-dozen or more people in Chambersburg might be dealing in the forged documents and neither of the men arrested last week was the original target of the investigation.

Police were originally looking into reports of documents being sold from a Hispanic-owned business downtown and several months ago brought in an undercover officer from the Pennsylvania State Police who tried unsuccessfully to set up the purchase of forged identity cards, Frisby said.

The department statement listed the names of 30 Hispanic men and four women who have been charged with possessing forged documents. Almost all live in Chambersburg, but people from Fayetteville, Pa., Biglerville, Pa., Orrtanna, Pa., York Springs, Pa., and Frederick, Md., also were charged.

"That's just the cases I'm investigating," Frisby said. Other officers have charged 50 or more people with similar offenses, he said.

Trafficking in the forgeries "definitely" extends into Maryland, he said.

Most of the charges arose from traffic accidents, and people arrested for drunken driving and other criminal offenses, Frisby said. The people paid $100 to $600 for identification, depending on the quality of the forgery and the number of documents they wanted forged.

Bravo-Rivera allegedly made the documents in his home using computers, laminators and other equipment seized in a search of his home following his arrest. Olvera-Uribe was taking photos and information from customers and then traveling to another state to have the cards made, Frisby said.

When he was arrested, Olvera-Uribe had 10 orders for documents, "and he said he was getting paid $30 each," Frisby said.

"They all have to have a Social Security card to get a job," Frisby said of the illegal aliens. Most of the phony documents, however, are easy to spot.

"Some of these are so bad, you know they're forged," Frisby said. Misspellings are common on the cards, he said.

Frisby said the investigation is continuing and the Social Security Administration is now involved to determine if federal laws were violated.

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