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STATESVILLE, N.C. – Two men involved in a ring that produced and sold false identification documents were sentenced to prison today by U.S. District Judge Richard L. Voorhees in Statesville, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. The ring leader, Crescencio Lopez-Cruz, 28, of Newton, N.C. was sentenced to 48 months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release. His brother, Wilber Lopez-Cruz, 25, also of Newton was sentenced to 24 months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of ICE/Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Georgia and the Carolinas; Guy Fallen, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General (SSA-OIG), Atlanta Field Division; Greg McLeod, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NC SBI); Steven M. Watkins, Director of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles License and Theft Bureau (NC DMV L&T); Sheriff Coy Reid of the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office and Chief Bob Lane of the Sparta Police Department.
Crescencio and Wilber Lopez-Cruz pleaded guilty in July 2013 to conspiracy to produce and transfer fraudulent identification documents, producing fraudulent identification documents and aggravated identity theft. Crescencio Lopez-Cruz also pleaded guilty to transferring fraudulent identification documents, falsely representing a Social Security number and making false immigration documents.
Three other members involved in the conspiracy have already been sentenced. The defendants’ brother, Sixto Lopez-Cruz, 20, of Newton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce and transfer fraudulent identification documents and was sentenced in May 2014 to time-served and to one year of supervised release. The defendants’ sister, Rosalba Lopez-Cruz, 21, of Newton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce and transfer fraudulent identification documents and falsely representing a social security number. She was sentenced in May 2014 to time-served plus one year of supervised release. The defendants’ brother-in-law, Mario Tercero-Cruz, 34, also of Newton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce and transfer fraudulent identification documents and was sentenced in May 2014 to time-served and to one year of supervised release.
According to filed documents and today’s sentencing hearings, in September 2012, law enforcement began investigating the conspirators for their involvement in an illegal scheme to produce and sell false identification documents, in Newton and elsewhere. The false documents included alien registration cards, immigration residency cards, Social Security cards, and State licenses, among others. According to court records, some of the false identification documents contained fictitious information and some contained “real” information of individuals whose identities had been stolen. Court records show that, typically, the defendants took photographs of their customers and incorporated them into the counterfeit documents. Depending on the type and quality of documents, customers paid anywhere from $200 to $650 per transaction. According to court records, while executing a search warrant at Crescencio and Wilber Lopez-Cruz’s residence, law enforcement seized equipment used to produce the fraudulent documents, including a computer, a printer and a laminator.
Crescencio and Wilber Lopez-Cruz have been in custody since March 2013. Upon designation to a federal facility they will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
The investigation was handled by HSI, SSA-OIG, NC SBI, NC DMV L&T, the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office and Sparta Police Department. The prosecution was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Kenneth M. Smith.