March 25, 2007
Gabriel Hernandez is known to his friends as “Chilango.” The maintenance man tools around in a golf cart at the mobile home park where he works, and often sings along to the Mexican music blaring from the stereo system he rigged to it.
Longtime friend Raquel Garcia said it is difficult to believe allegations that Hernandez operated an extensive forged-document business because he didn’t have much spare time. She said his maintenance job at Chaparral Village, 400 W. Baseline Road in Tempe, demanded most of his time.
And she said Hernandez also moonlighted as a disc jockey and karaoke host.
“I can’t believe what has happened,” Garcia said.
Investigator Mark Calles of the Arizona Fraudulent Identification Task Force alleges in court documents that Hernandez made three sales of resident alien cards and Social Security cards to an undercover officer between Jan. 31 and March 5.
And when investigators raided two homes associated with Hernandez, they made one of the biggest “hauls” of equipment and forging materials they’d ever seen, said Andrea Esquer, spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
Hernandez made about $280 on the three transactions for a few hours work, according to the court documents.
Calles wrote in a search warrant affidavit that through his numerous investigations, fraudulent-document makers typically hire middlemen to pass out business cards to drum up business at shopping centers and other locations frequented by undocumented immigrants.
The customers contact the middleman, who they’ll meet to give their photos and personal information to.
Investigators were tipped off about Hernandez on Jan. 3 when a detective was given a business card with Hernandez’ disc jockey business. An undercover officer met Hernandez and made the transactions at Food City, 725 W. Baseline Road in Tempe.
Calles wrote that Hernandez would meet the undercover officer to get the necessary information, go to his home and return with the documents to collect his money in time frames ranging from 35 to 90 minutes.
An indictment alleges Hernandez got help in his enterprise from Cesar Esparza-Valencia and Marco Leon-Sierra, manager of the trailer court.
Hernandez, jailed in lieu of $9,000 bail, is charged with one count of illegally conducting an enterprise, three counts of trafficking in the identity of another and seven counts of forgery.
When authorities raided his home March 9 they found computers, card printers, scanners, laminators, blank Social Security cards, blank identification cards, a Mexican state of Guerrero seal, blank Mexican birth certificates and personal identification information on customers, according to inventory lists of the seized items. Esquer said the fake documents they found appeared very authentic.
“He’s saying he has nothing to hide,” said Garcia.