NY minister accused of selling fake green cards

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – A Syracuse minister accused of making and selling fake green cards and Social Security cards appeared in federal court Friday

Ariel Ruiz, 41, pastor of Iglesia Nueva Esperanza, was arrested Thursday as he delivered nine resident alien cards and nine Social Security cards to an undercover agent, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents said. Additional documents were found upon his arrest, agents said.

Ruiz was charged with possessing, manufacturing and selling counterfeit documents to defraud the government.

“Selling fraudulent government identity cards is a serious crime,” said Peter Smith, special agent in charge of ICE’s office of investigations in Buffalo. “The phony documents are used by illegal aliens to obtain financial benefits and entitlements intended for U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents and to obtain unauthorized employment.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Brown said Ruiz, known to the undercover operative as “Pastor,” told customers to mail photos to be used for the fake identification cards to the church’s Syracuse address.

According to the Web site of the Central New York Baptist Association, Ruiz’s church has arranged Bible study groups for farm workers in New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Ruiz was released on bond following an appearance in U.S. District Court Friday and ordered to appear again Tuesday to establish legal counsel. He did not immediately return a telephone message left at the church Friday.

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