Notaries rely on the credibility of state-issued identity documents to identify signers and guard against fraud, and state agencies have gone to great lengths to make it harder to fake their IDs. But a raft of recent cases suggest that peddlers of fake identities are obtaining fraudulent IDs from official government sources, such as motor vehicle departments, making it harder to tell the difference between a fake and the real thing.
That was shown recently when two employees from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office were among those arrested by federal authorities in connection with a scheme to issue fraudulent driver’s licenses and other state identity documents to illegal immigrants from China, Korea and Indonesia. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago said the ring charged between $1,200 and $3,500 for a set of fake identity documents, and investigators believe that thousands were issued.
In Ohio, Nekeia Mack-Fuller, the office manager of a Columbus license bureau, recently was tried in federal court for processing more than 300 ID cards for undocumented immigrants. License bureaus are private offices that sell driver’s licenses and vehicle tags on behalf of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Mack-Fuller was acquitted during the trial because the government could not prove she knew that the Puerto Rican birth certificates and Social Security cards did not belong to the bearers. But one of her colleagues pleaded guilty in the case.
These cases are disturbing because insiders were responsible for issuing fraudulent licenses that have the same weight and validity as legitimate licenses — calling into question every identity document issued by the state during the duration of the crime. Any Notary who suspects the validity of an ID should quiz the signer about the information on it.