Federal investigators arrested two members of sophisticated “document mills” in Southern California that allegedly produced an array of fake IDs. They include Transportation Worker Identification Credentials that could be used to gain access to U.S. ports and other secure transport facilities.
Earlier this month, special agents with the Coast Guard Investigative Service arrested Brian Dunmore, 54, of Porter Ranch, and Ricardo Rios-Gama, 51, of Los Angeles, on charges of trafficking in counterfeit documents.
The investigation is ongoing, authorities said.
“Our national security depends in part upon our ability to restrict access to sensitive areas, including significant transportation hubs such as the Port of Los Angeles,” Los Angeles area U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement. “False identification documents were given to unauthorized individuals by a person who also illegally possessed an arsenal of high-powered weapons, making this crime extremely serious.”
TWICs are issued by the Transportation Security Administration to people who have successfully undergone a security background check. A TWIC is required by the Maritime Transportation Security Act for workers who need access to secure areas of the nation’s maritime facilities and vessels, according to TSA.
Decker was referring to a search of Dunmore’s residence that netted 11 guns, a “small arsenal” of weapons and ammunition, including a fully automatic Tec-9, two AR-15 rifles with more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition and an AK-47.
Because Dunmore is a convicted felon, his possession of the weapons was illegal, authorities said.
In a criminal complaint, Coast Guard investigator Kristin Lindsay said that she and other agents had been investigating Dumore since the latter part of 2015, at times in an undercover capacity.
The agents posed as business owners looking to make TWIC cards so their employees could gain access to the Port of Los Angeles without having to submit to criminal background checks.
During one meeting, Dunmore showed them card stock with embedded chips that “greatly resembled the TWIC.”
Dunmore also offered to sell the undercover agents the necessary printers and software that would enable them to manufacture the TWICs and other forms of identification ranging from driver’s licenses to pizza gift cards, authorities said.
“Dunmore was also told that the agents wanted to sell the TWICs for $100, and Dunmore stated that most people only charge $50 per TWIC card,” the complaint said.
Rios-Gama is charged with producing a false identification document. An affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint alleged that Rios-Gama sold undercover agents counterfeit identification documents at a swap meet, including three bogus TWICs and a California driver’s license.
Authorities said that at a subsequent meeting, Rios-Gama delivered two California driver’s licenses, two permanent alien cards and two Social Security cards.
Because some people are ineligible to obtain a TWIC, a black market for these documents has developed, according to the investigation. U.S. citizens and immigrants in certain immigration categories may apply for the credential, according to TSA.
“The fraudulent manufacturing and sales of official identification documents required to gain access to secure areas directly threatens and undercuts efforts in maintaining security within our nation’s ports,” Jon Finnegan, special agent in charge of Coast Guard Investigative Service’s Pacific Coast Region, said in statement.