Three people have been arrested in Cherokee County after a tip led deputies to a major counterfeit operation that likely provided fake identification to hundreds of illegal immigrants, police said.
The trio was apparently making illegal drivers licenses, green cards, birth certificates and social security cards and selling them for big cash, said Lt. Jay Baker with the sheriff's office.
The two men and a woman were running the operation out of a Towne Lake apartment, where they also lived, Baker said.
Deputies learned of the illegal counterfeit business through a tip from Whitfield County authorities, who arrested two people Wednesday who were allegedly selling fake documents to undercover agents. Police in the northwest Georgia county then alerted Cherokee officials.
"They acted on it quickly," Baker said.
Deputies obtained a search warrant for the Cherokee apartment, where they recovered approximately $15,725 in cash and seized computers, Baker said. Printers, laminators, paper and images containing the seals of the U.S. and Mexican government were also found.
"They were producing the items here in Cherokee County," Baker said.
Cherokee deputies found evidence indicating the three suspects had sent at least $75,000 back to Mexico, Baker said. The trio is believed to be in the U.S. illegallly, and immigration officials have been notified for further investigation, Baker said.
Those under arrest in Cherokee County include Miguel Lopez-Garcia, 27, Kevin Martinez-Ortiz, 28, and 38-year-old Maria Asuncion-Real, Baker said. All three were arrested late Wednesday and have been charged with second degree forgery and are being held on $2,400 bond.
Asuncion-Real's two children, who were also living in the apartment, are now in DFACS custody, police said. The two men living in the apartment are believed to be affiliated with the 18th Street Gang.
The counterfeit operation was apparently netting about $200 for a "non-clean card," or one with someone else's information, Baker said. "Clean" cards, with information not assigned to anyone else, were sold for about $800, he said.
The trio's computers will be examined to determine the extent of the operation, Baker said. Investigators believe the illegal business had been in operation for several months.
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