A Mexican citizen whom prosecutors have linked to thousands of U.S. birth certificates produced for illegal immigrants faces a January sentencing in a separate identity theft case, filed more than a decade after his activities first surfaced.
Jorge Alvarez Rivera, also known as Daniel Salas, has became a poster child of sorts in Kansas officials' presentations about identity theft since 830 state birth certificates were found in his trunk after a 1998 accident near Liberal.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Office of Vital Statistics and the Kansas Social and Rehabilitative Services conducted record searches on those documents and estimated the state was paying out $200,000 per month, or about $2 million annually, to 55 illegal immigrant families whose names were on some of the documents.
Those benefits included state payments for medical costs, aid to dependent children and food, said Donna Calabrese, director of the state's Office of Vital Statistics.
"I would like to see that this time it is taken seriously," she said Friday. "It cost the taxpayers dearly."
Rivera was never prosecuted despite the fact that his trunk, which popped open during the accident, was later found to contain not just the Kansas documents but thousands of U.S. birth certificates, hundreds of Mexican documents and $10,000 in cash.
"We kept seeing the repercussions — and that is just one case," Calabrese said. "There are multiple operations where people are manufacturing false identities, including vital records."
But that traffic accident has come back to haunt Rivera in a separate case working its way through federal court in Wichita. Rivera, 62, will be sentenced Jan. 11 after pleading guilty last month to making a false claim of U.S. citizenship and identity theft.
Prosecutors say Rivera sold two sets of false identification, including a birth certificate and a Social Security card, to an undercover government informant. Rivera also indicated at the time that he had additional sets of false documents for sale.
His defense attorney, David Freund, did not return phone and e-mail messages for comment.
Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas, confirmed no charges were filed for the 1998 incident and said he did not know why.
"We were seeing just one case," Calabrese said, "but back in 1998 some of the prosecutors and judges weren't really tuned in to how serious this kind of fraudulent activity was."
Calabrese said she got a call last summer from Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Treaster asking what she knew about Rivera because he had been arrested again, and she gave him the information she had compiled.
If U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten accepts the plea deal Rivera's defense attorney struck with prosecutors, Rivera would be sent to federal prison for 30 months.
Rivera has remained jailed since a magistrate judge found him to be a flight risk, citing in part the false documents found in the 1998 accident. U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Bostwick also noted that Rivera — who claimed to be netting only $150 in monthly income — had $16,000 in savings and a house worth $50,000 that he owned free and clear.