Two men were arrested in what authorities described Thursday as an elaborate scheme to help more than 200 illegal immigrants from Korea and China obtain California driver's licenses using doctored Canadian passports.
Dae Wahn Ahn, 49, of Diamond Bar, and Chong Hwan Kim, 47, of Norwalk, were arrested Wednesday and charged with manufacturing false documents, using false documents to conceal citizenship, perjury, forgery, conspiracy and false personation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
The men are accused of using altered Canadian passports and Social Security numbers that had belonged to Chinese workers in the Northern Mariana Islands to apply for the licenses, immigration officials said.
They advertised services in Korean newspapers, luring clients from across Southern California and even other states, said Michael Toms, resident agent-in-charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement homelandsecurity investigations in Bakersfield.
"Those who engage in this type of fraud are putting the security of our communities and even our country at risk," Toms said in a statement.
Ahn and Kim were expected to be arraigned Friday in state court in Bakersfield. It was not immediately possible to locate phone numbers for either of them.
Immigration authorities said the two men are Korean citizens and are in the country illegally after overstaying their visas.
Authorities began investigating in January 2010 after a DMV employee reported irregularities in a Canadian passport with new biographic pages that had been inserted and the photograph replaced.
On Wednesday, state and federal investigators executed search warrants at the suspects' homes and a business in downtown Los Angeles and reported seizing counterfeit passports and driver's licenses from multiple states. Authorities also detained four Korean citizens on suspected immigration violations.
A passport from another country can be used to obtain a California driver's license along with a valid Social Security number, said Mike Marando, a spokesman for the DMV.
Since the investigation began, immigration authorities have also arrested four people on suspected immigration violations who had obtained the licenses or drove people from Southern California to Kern County to help people get them, said Virginia Kice, an agency spokeswoman.
The Department of Motor Vehicles has flagged the fraudulently obtained licenses in its files. Anyone who uses one of these licenses at a traffic stop will be referred to investigators, said Eric Light, supervising investigator for the DMV.