New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang announced that two men have pleaded guilty in federal court this week to charges relating to a widespread and highly lucrative scheme that distributed driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) safety course cards. The scheme came to the attention of the Inspector General as part of the Inspector General’s Office’s integrity oversight and monitoring of the Jacob Javits Center Expansion Project—a $1.5 billion project that enlarges the Javits Center by 1.2 million square feet, including 227,000 square feet of exhibit space, meeting rooms, theaters, and administrative offices. Construction workers on major state infrastructure projects are required to undergo certified safety training before they begin work, and a routine review of workers’ credentials discovered one such fake OSHA card, leading to a multi-agency investigation and culminating in this week’s guilty pleas.
“Distributing fraudulent OSHA cards to untrained construction workers puts those workers and others at risk of injury or death,” said Inspector General Lang. “New York workers and the public alike have a right to safe construction zones, and qualified workers on infrastructure projects.”
“Fraudulent schemes like this are driven by greed at the expense of worker safety,” said Port Authority Inspector General John Gay. “The Port Authority remains committed to ensuring the safety of all throughout our region, and we are proud to be a partner in this effort.
“Williams and Vasquez profited off a lucrative criminal enterprise by stealing people’s identities and selling fraudulent identification documents including driver’s licenses, social security cards, and OSHA safety cards while soliciting customers by brazenly posting their illicit sales on social media platforms. Peddling fraudulent documents is a crime with real, tangible consequences – providing a layer of anonymity to those who use these documents in furtherance of criminal acts,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel. “Today’s guilty pleas send a clear message that HSI and its partners will continue to seek out and bring to justice individuals who compromise the integrity of government identification and benefits documents.”
Michael Kruise Williams, 31, of Mamaroneck, was charged on January 20, 2022 and pleaded guilty today to one count of Production of False Identification Documents and one count of Bank Fraud. As part of a plea agreement, Williams agreed to forfeit $297,313.52 and pay $7,723.40 in restitution. Williams is expected to be sentenced in October.
Pedro Vasquez, 28, of the Bronx, was charged on January 24, 2022 and pleaded guilty on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 to one count of Transfer of False Identification Documents. As part of a plea agreement, Vasquez agreed to forfeit $87,974.64 and pay $3,800 in restitution. Vasquez is expected to be sentenced in October.
During the course of a nearly two-year investigation into Williams and Vasquez's operation, undercover investigators bought falsified OSHA cards, Social Security identification cards, and driver’s licenses from several states.
Search warrants of Williams’ residence and office recovered hundreds of false identification documents, an ID card printer, more than 1,000 holograms from various states, approximately 3,000 blank ID cards, and electronic messages from Williams boasting: “I bought the holograms too from China,” “I know it serious[,] But I don’t promote to nobody[,]” “Only deep criminals”[,] “Just got the lastest [sic] templates,” “Also offer Birth Certificates … Employee ID’s … Credit Cards … Employment Authorization Card … NYPD Card … US Passport,” and “Bro I had tons of orders before[e] the id printer came. I was nervous cuz I took a lot of ppl money.”
Inspector General Lang thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District for prosecuting the case. The Inspector General also thanked Homeland Security Investigations, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, the New York City Department of Probation, and the Village of Mamaroneck Police Department for assisting in the investigation.
The investigation was handled by Deputy Inspector General in Charge of the New York City Office Jessica Silver, Attorney-in-Charge of Special Investigations Jessica Haaz, Investigator John Slevin, Chief of Investigations of the New York City and Hauppauge Offices Ben Defibaugh, Chief of Audit for the Downstate Regional Office Giovanni Liotine, Senior Investigators Anne Peters and Jimmy Gibson, and Investigators Nyah Paul and Micheál O’Sullivan.