35 charged in passport fraud investigation

September 16, 2008 7:24:13 PM PDT
Dozens of Bay Area residents are among more than 100 people nationwide charged in what is being called the largest ever investigation into U.S. passport fraud, federal authorities announced today.

The suspects charged in "Operation Deathmatch," an investigation by the U.S. State Department and the FBI that resulted in federal passport fraud charges against 112 people, included fugitives, military deserters, sex offenders, delinquent taxpayers and undocumented immigrants from more than 20 countries, according to the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

In each of the cases, the suspects allegedly applied for, and received, U.S. passports using the birth certificates of deceased U.S. citizens.

The charges were filed between July 2005 and August of this year, authorities said. Law enforcement also seized $650,000 in cash, firearms and more than 80 of the fraudulent passports.

In the Bay Area, 35 people were charged, including an alleged undocumented female acrobat from Japan who remains a fugitive, a 16-year deserter of the U.S. Navy, and a convicted drunken driver allegedly trying to hide the fact from employers, according to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Authorities said many of the suspects lived and worked under their assumed identities for decades without family, friends or employers ever knowing their true names.


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