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Six accused of conspiracy to obtain temporary Illinois driver's licenses

St. Louis Post Dispatch

Friday, January 11, 2019  |  Article  |  By Robert Patrick St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Driver's Licenses (80b) , Immigration (99a) , Secretary of State (80)
Six men who are in the U.S. illegally were indicted Wednesday on charges accusing them of conspiring to obtain temporary Illinois driver’s licenses with false documents, court documents claim.

The indictment on a conspiracy charge follows a criminal complaint filed Dec. 19 that says Bethalto police were called to the Illinois secretary of state’s driver services facility Dec. 15.

Employees there had suspicions about four Hispanic men who were trying to obtain temporary visitor driver’s licenses with what appeared to be forged bank statements and cable bills that had the same account number but different names, an affidavit filed in court by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Dwayne E. Haferkamp says.

Four men, Martin Vargas-Avalos, Cristobal Vargas-Avalos, Juan Manuel Vargas-Avalos and Saady Francisco Portillo-Hernandez were then arrested.

The Vargas-Avalos brothers told police that they were from Knoxville, Ill., and had promised to pay Jose Manuel Barradas-Geron $650 each for Illinois temporary licenses, Haferkamp wrote. All said Barradas-Geron gave them forged documents, he wrote. All three men had Mexican passports and used a Decatur, Ill., address on applications, he wrote.

Portillo-Hernandez had a Honduran passport and used a Chicago address, he wrote.

Police later arrested Omar Fernando Ortiz-Granados, who acted as translator in the license office, and Barradas-Geron when the pair returned to the license office to retrieve a car.

Police found more fake bank statements and utility bills, a computer, a printer and a scanner in the car.

Haferkamp wrote that all of the men were in the U.S. illegally and that ICE had placed detainers on the men.

Cristobal Vargas-Avalos, Barradas-Geron and Ortiz-Granados also were indicted on a charge of unlawful transfer, possession or use of a means of identification.

All will plead not guilty in coming days. Their attorneys could not be immediately reached Thursday for comment.

The temporary licenses are not valid for identification purposes and can’t be used to board an airplane, enter a federal building, register to vote or apply for a firearm owner identification card, the Illinois secretary of state says. It requires a valid foreign passport or consular card issued by the state police and requires proof of insurance and Illinois residency for at least a year.