Savannah area McDonald's employees indicted for conspiring to sell stolen iden
SAVANNAH, Ga. - A federal indictment, unsealed on April 13th in federal court, charged Oscar Lazo, 51, a citizen of Peru; Eva Ramos, 35, a citizen of the United States; Mauricio Cruz, a citizen of Mexico; Manuel Cruz, a citizen of Mexico; and an unnamed defendant with conspiring to sell the stolen identities of U.S. citizens.
The charges follow an extensive undercover investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents in Savannah.
The indictment alleges that beginning in July of 2010, Lazo and Ramos, both managers of a local McDonald's restaurant owned by NTG Enterprises, sold stolen identities to other prospective McDonald's employees, including Mauricio Cruz and Manuel Cruz, who used the stolen identities to obtain employment with the restaurant.
Lazo and Ramos were also charged with harboring illegal aliens. It wasn't clear how the managers allegedly obtained the allegedly stolen identities.
All five were arrested on criminal charges by ICE HSI special agents in Savannah. In addition to the managers, agents arrested nine immigrants at the restaurants and held two Mexican nationals, former employees of McDonald's in the area, at their homes.
If convicted on all counts, Lazo and Ramos face a maximum statutory penalty of over 100 years in prison. If convicted on all the counts of which they are charged, Mauricio Cruz and Manuel Cruz face a maximum statutory penalty of 37 years in prison.
About 11 million illegal immigrants reside in the U.S., according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Lacking documents, some of them have traditionally used phony names and Social Security numbers to gain employment. But in recent years, technology has made it increasingly difficult for counterfeit documents to pass muster. The use of an electronic system that checks a person's work eligibility, called E-Verify, is now mandatory for employers in several states. And the system must also be used by companies that do business with the government. However, it cannot detect illegal hires using someone else's identity.
According to family members, the defendants are currently being held at the Charleston County Detention Center in Charleston, South Carolina.