Friday, December 21, 2012

Los Angeles-area man admits operating websites that sold nearly $2 million worth of false identity documents

Two days ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced they had successfully completed an investigation and prosecution of a Los Angeles-area man who admitted operating two websites that sold counterfeit IDs pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to transferring false identification document. This announcement followed a joint task force probe conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the HSI-led multi-agency Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force. This case was prosecuted by the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section.

Ramin Bibian, 47, or Tarzana, admitted that, from approximately November 2005 to approximately August 2012, he operated two websites that sold false identification documents, specifically state driver's licenses, identification cards and international driver's licenses.

Through, Bibian offered state driver's licenses and identification cards for prices ranging from $135 to more than $250. For an additional fee, customers could add special features to their identification cards, such as holograms, magnetic encoded strips and high definition printing similar to that used by state agencies. Although he advertised his products as novelty items, Bibian admitted he was well aware the identification cards were similar to legitimately-issued state identification and that his customers intended to use them as substitutes for such.

In addition, Bibian sold invalid international driver's licenses on another website he operated – An international driver's permit provides an official translated copy of an individual's home country driver's license for use abroad. The U.S. government has authorized only two entities, the American Automobile Association and the National Automobile Club, to issue such permits. Bibian admitted using false names, including Ray Fray, Arya Jahan and Tova Godsi, in connection with the offense. He also agreed to forfeit $1.9 million to the federal government, which represents the proceeds from the sale of the false identification documents.

Bibian was indicted by a federal grand jury Aug. 16. He was charged with three counts of transferring false identification documents. Under the plea agreement, Bibian pleaded guilty to one of those counts.

Bibian has been in custody since his arrest Aug. 28. His sentencing is scheduled for March 19, 2013, before District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.