Counterfeit (forged) documents are used by illegal immigrants, financial crime artists (fraudsters) and even terrorists. 9/11 proved this a few years back - when it was discovered that several of the hijackers (terrorists) used forged documents to obtain legitimate state-issued driver's licenses.
And this can't be the only time terrorists have used counterfeit documents - jihadist training materials teach their disciples to use these documents to blend into our society, as well as to pay for their expenses. Al Qaeda's training manual (courtesy of Frontline) illustrates this, here.
Several months ago, I saw one of the first stories about Suad Leija and wrote about her. Since then I've mentioned her in a couple of posts. This led to her husband making contact with me, and eventually speaking to Suad, herself.
Suad Leija is trying to educate the public that counterfeit documents pose a serious problem to our safety and national security. And who would know better than Suad, who was raised around one of the biggest organized crime groups providing counterfeit documents to anyone willing to pay for them.
Suad is the step-daughter of Manuel Leija Sanchez, described as the "boss" of the Chicago cell of the Castorena Leija-Sanchez crime family. The ICE press release about his recent arrest can be seen, here.
Mr. Leija-Sanchez has been arrested in the past for selling counterfeit documents (several times), narcotics and assault. He is currently serving a one-year sentence in Illinois for this latest arrest. More details about how he ended up only getting one-year sentence are on Suad's YouTube videos, which can be seen on her Paper Weapons site (highly recommended and linked to further down in this post).
I asked Suad about her bodyguards - mentioned in other articles about her - reported as being Polish. She told me that they were represented to her as Polish, but didn't really know. Interestingly enough, they taught Suad to speak a little Russian.
This made me reflect on speculation that Eastern European organized crime is involved in all the major data-breaches involving the theft of personal and financial data. They would need resources to turn their information into counterfeit devices.
Eastern European organized crime is (also) known to be involved in human smuggling and there are illegal immigrants of Eastern European origin all over the world. Sometimes, we need to remember that illegal immigrants aren't only from Mexico.
Law enforcement officials from Canada and Great Britain have voiced their concerns in public about connections between organized crime and terrorism in the recent past.
Of course, the FBI has been saying the same thing for awhile (since 2002), here.
I asked Suad how many people she thought used counterfeit identification to obtain legitimate documents and she told me that was why items, such as utility bills are popular. Suad describes these items as "feeder documents," which are then used to obtain more legitimate identification.
As long as feeder documents are acceptable to prove legal status, putting security features on legitimate documents will do little to stop the problem. This is especially true, when some of the documents used as feeder documents might come from anywhere in the world.
Hazardous material licenses are even forged - allowing hazardous materials to be illegally transported. Besides the possibility of a freak accident occurring (if used in an intentional manner) a lot of innocent people could be hurt, or killed because of a forged hazmat license.
Counterfeit documents can be used to cross borders, board airplanes and it seems (more recently) obtain access to sensitive government facilities.
ICE recently arrested quite a few illegal aliens working at some of these secure government facilities.
Suad is currently in hiding (under the protection of her husband) - there are reports that her step-father has threatened her life after he is released. Manuel Leija-Sanchez and Pedro Castorena are both in custody - but there is no telling for how long - and their organizations still appear to in business.
ICE press release on Pedro Castorena's arrest, here.
According to Suad's website Paper Weapons:
The Castorena Leija-Sanchez crime organization is the major supplier of counterfeit documents/paper weapons in the United States. They are based in Mexico and have been operating in the United States for 17 years. They are in every major US city and earn approximately 300 million dollars per year.
Paper Weapons site, here.
The site has a chilling flash presentation showing pictures of 9-11 terrorists and members of the Castorena Leija-Sanchez family on fake counterfeit identification.
Suad's story has been covered by the mainstream media (Lou Dobbs, Paula Zahn, CBS, Univision), here.
Her personal story (in her own words) can also be seen in a series of YouTube presentations, along with the stories from the mainstream media.
Some other items were pointed out to me as a result of this conversation. There are 15 million illegal immigrants in the country today, and the reason they are here is to make money. If the jobs weren't readily available (and they seem to be), the problem wouldn't be anywhere as big as it is now.
The motivation of most of these people is to escape poverty - and believe it or not - people on public assistance in the United States live like "kings" in comparison to how they live in their own countries.
Then there is the matter of how any program could be administered. Embassies across the world are already overwhelmed with visa requests and how would these people be effectively screened?
It was also pointed out to me that if a guest worker program were implemented, it probably wouldn't be long before the required identification to be a guest worker was being counterfeited, also.
Documents being counterfeited is nothing new (counterfeiting has been around for centuries). But with recent advances in technology, it's becoming pretty easy to do. The quality of the documents is getting better and security features are being compromised quicker than ever before.
The problem of counterfeit documents goes far beyond poor people doing menial labor (jobs that no one seems to really want). In fact, they are enabling much more serious activity, and this is where we need to direct our focus.