A Mexican citizen who had been living in Marion, Ohio, was sentenced to more than four years in prison for operating a document mill that produced more than 1,000 false identification documents, as well as stealing the identity of another.
Martha Buendia-Chavarria, 44, was sentenced to 54 months in prison after previously pleading guilty to possession of false with intent to transfer false identity documents, possession of document-making implements, false claim of citizenship to obtain benefits and aggravated identity theft.
The initial investigation into Buendia-Chavarria led law enforcement officials to a larger case involving Corso’s Flower and Garden Center, which culminated in June this year with raids in Sandusky and Castalia and the arrest of more than 100 workers. It was one of the largest employer stings in recent years and many of the workers arrested held documents produced by Buendia-Chavarria.
Law enforcement agents has previously executed a search warrant in Willard in July 2017 related to an identity-theft investigation. The target of that investigation, Manuel Granados, eventually pleaded guilty to related crimes. Granados had also purchased false identity documents from Buendia-Chavarria in Marion, which he later resold.
In October 2017, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Buendia-Chavarria’s residence where they located numerous false identification documents, five handwritten ledgers containing other peoples’ names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers, and in some cases, who the identity was sold to, according to court documents.
Forensic analysis of the printers and devices seized from Buendia-Chavarria’s residence indicated she produced more than 1,000 false identification documents, according to court documents.
Buendia-Chavarria also stole the identity of another person, which she used to make a false claim of citizenship.
Identity theft is a problem for individuals, businesses and government and remains a relatively easy crime to commit. Americans are more likely to become victims of identity theft than any other nationality. According to Javelin Strategy’s 2018 Identity Fraud Report, the number of identity theft victims in the U.S. rose to 16.7 million in 2017. The cost of this lost data amounts to over nearly $17 billion. 2012 recorded the greatest identity theft loss to date with a value of $21.8 billion.
Last month, HSToday reported that some Americans are more susceptible to identity theft than others and shared expert advice on how best to protect against such crimes.