Jose Esteban Aleman was among more than 1,000
undocumented workers arrested in December during
highly publicized immigration raids at Swift & Co.
meatpacking plants around the country.
Like many of those arrested, Aleman wasn't
cited on immigration charges. He was arrested for
carrying fake documents that identified him as a
Most of the fake identification confiscated
during the raids was traced to taxpaying Americans
whose Social Security numbers had been stolen,
said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Aleman's case was different. His ID was traced
to a murder suspect in Chicago who might have sold
his identification papers while in custody years
earlier, authorities said.
“There are some people in prisons and homeless
and others who are selling their identities to be
used by (illegal immigrants),” said Julie Myers,
assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs
Enforcement. “We are just beginning to see this.”
Myers declined to comment on the Aleman case,
saying it is under investigation. She would not
discuss other inquiries.
Other authorities were puzzled why anyone would
assume the identity of an inmate, but speculated
that it could happen if a buyer were unaware he
was buying a prisoner's identity or if he were
“Why in the world would anyone assume the
identity of somebody in prison? It's like buying a
car that's been in 300 wrecks,” said Arizona
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katie
Officials said Aleman, 21, of El Salvador,
apparently obtained the Social Security number and
birth certificate of Christopher Padilla, 20, a
jail inmate in Chicago.
Court records show that Aleman purchased the
documents in 2003 for $1,000 through an
intermediary in Utah who was identified in court
documents only as Chaparra, according to records
filed in the Swift prosecution in Utah.
The person named Chaparra was not apprehended.
Selling one's ID may or may not be a crime,
“depending on the facts and what one knows when
they transfer the identity,” said Jamie Zwiebeck,
a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs
Zwiebeck declined to comment on the Aleman case
and suggested further review would be necessary.
The 1998 Identity Theft and Assumption
Deterence Act, which covers many identity theft
regulations, prohibits anyone from “knowingly
transferring or using, without lawful authority, a
means of identification of another person with the
intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful
Aleman might not have known that the ID he
obtained originally had been traced to the inmate,
officials said. Aleman has pleaded guilty to
charges linked to being an illegal immigrant in
the United States and is in the process of being
deported, immigration officials said.
Over the past few years, Aleman went by
Christopher Padilla's name – but Padilla was in a
Christopher Padilla was a teenager who was
arrested on drug charges in Texas when Aleman
first used his identification in 2003. Padilla was
in a Texas prison on the charges from August 2002
to March 2003.
Aleman continued to use Padilla's
identification, unaware that Padilla had gotten
deeper into trouble.
In November 2004, Padilla was accused of
killing a 15-month-old boy in Chicago by violently
shaking him. Padilla, who is in the Cook County
jail, has pleaded not guilty, said his attorney,
When asked whether Padilla sold his identity
while in custody, Stach said he could not comment,
citing “privacy concerns.”
The investigation into the Swift Co.
meatpacking plants began in February 2006, when
agency officials learned that a large number of
illegal immigrants might have used U.S. citizens'
Social Security numbers to get hired.
Aleman's brother also was arrested in the raids
as an undocumented immigrant who allegedly used a
That ID was linked to a U.S. citizen who was
not in jail, officials said.
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