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Counterfeit driver's licenses being smuggled into U.S. from abroad, officials say

Customs and Border Protection officers seized nearly 20,000 fake licenses just in Chicago, in first half of 2020.

Published: August 9, 2020 2:15pm

Updated: August 10, 2020 12:27pm

Nearly 20,000 fake driver's licenses were seized in Chicago during a six month period this year, after being shipped into the United States from foreign countries, Customs and Border Protection officials said.

From Jan. 1 until June 30, CBP officers seized 19,888 counterfeit licenses that were sent through Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in 1,513 shipments, CBP officials said. Most came from China and Hong Kong, while others were sent from Great Britain and South Korea.

"These counterfeit driver’s licenses can lead to disastrous consequences," said Ralph Piccirilli, Acting Area Port Director, Chicago. "Criminal organizations use these counterfeit IDs to avoid attracting attention to their illegal activities. Our CBP officers were able to identify these very realistic counterfeits and stop them from reaching their destinations."

The documents can lead to identity theft, worksite enforcement, critical infrastructure protection, fraud linked to immigration-related crimes such as human smuggling and human trafficking, and these documents can be used by those individuals associated with terrorism to minimize scrutiny from travel screening measures.

The situation occurs at multiple locations, including Louisville, Kentucky and Dallas, Texas, officials said. 

In March, CBP officers confiscated nearly 2,000 counterfeit driver's licenses and two fake passports being sent into the country via Memphis, Tenn.

The shipments came from China, and were destined for buyers throughout the United States. Many of the shipments were smuggled in the bottom of boxes containing a single tassle, officials said, noting that the fake documents sell for $250-$500 on the black market to a variety of buyers. 

"Some may think fake IDs are mostly associated with underaged drinking, but it's much more than that," said Michael Neipert, CBP Area Port of Memphis Director in March. "Fraudulent IDs can also be associated with identity theft and terrorist activity." 

The documents also are used in human trafficking, and by illegal aliens trying to gain entry into the United States, officials said.


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