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By Mark Gomez and Lisa Fernandez, San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. - In the largest investigation ever of its kind, federal authorities Tuesday announced the arrests of more than 100 people who are suspected of fraudulently applying for and obtaining U.S. passports using birth certificates of dead Americans.
Between July 2005 and August 2008, 112 individuals across the country were charged with federal passport fraud and related offenses, according to the U.S. State Department. The individuals charged include fugitives, military deserters, delinquent taxpayers, parolees, convicted felons, habitual drunken drivers and undocumented workers from more than 20 countries, all of whom wanted passports to hide from law enforcement, according to authorities.
Dubbed "Operation Deathmatch," the investigation was a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Diplomatic Security's San Francisco and Los Angeles Field Offices and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Sacramento Field Office. Senior security service officials from both agencies, who did not want to reveal their names, said investigators merged California's death record database, going back to 1940, with passport requests. Though this type of investigation is ongoing, the officials said, this operation was the largest and most successful because computer technology is so much more advanced than it used to be.
The Deathmatch defendants include Chih-Fong Chen of Atherton, an undocumented Chinese immigrant working in an immigration attorney's office. She stole the birth certificate of a deceased woman, Lorena Lew, while she was working for the Jocelyne J. K. Lew Immigration Law Firm, authorities say. Chen pleaded guilty to a federal passport offense and was sentenced to probation in April 2007.
John White of Mountain View is an another example of someone rounded up for stealing a dead person's identity. White also pleaded guilty to a federal passport offense, and was sentenced to probation and community service last year, for taking the name of the late Kenneth Voisinet, federal authorities say. White had a prior drunken driving conviction and wanted to hide that from his employers, which is why he stole Voisinet's clean history.
While it's possible for terrorists to steal and use other people's identities, senior diplomatic security officials with the U.S. State Department said there were no defendants charged with terrorism as part of this investigation.
Officials also said that there was no particular reason for announcing the results of Deathmatch today, especially since their work is ongoing and began in 2005.
Most of the people charged were arrested or surrendered in federal courts, according to the U.S. State Department. Some remain fugitives. Federal passport offenses carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
Law enforcement officials also seized three firearms, $650,000 in cash, a Mercedes and more than 80 of the fraudulently obtained U.S. passports.

Story From: San Jose Mercury News
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