A suspected illegal immigrant living on Hilton Head Island is accused of selling fake IDs after an informant bought one at the suspect's Beach City Road home, authorities say. It was the second arrest involving the sale of fake IDs in a week.
Manuel Rodriguez, 44, was arrested Aug. 8 after he allegedly made fraudulent picture IDs for undocumented immigrants. The arrest followed a February sting by the Beaufort County Immigration and Customs Enforcement Task Force.
The ICE Task Force received a tip earlier this year that Rodriguez was selling international driver's licenses. International driver's licenses are not a valid form of identification, but often are mistaken for the international driving permit, which is legitimate, according the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.
On Feb. 15, the task force equipped a confidential informant with an audio transmitter to make an undercover buy near Rodriguez' home at The Spa on Beach City Road. The informant gave Rodriguez $60 in marked bills as a down payment and provided biographical information and a picture for the license. Rodriguez gave him a handwritten receipt and a business card with his phone number on it, according to an investigative report released Thursday by the Sheriff's Office.
Rodriguez told the informant he would send the documentation to a company in New York, which would make the international driver's license in about 10 days.
On Feb. 26, the informant paid an additional $60 in marked bills to buy the license. Rodriguez gave him an International Driver's License booklet and told him he would need it for the license to be valid, according to the report.
When arrested last week, Rodriguez waived his Miranda rights and told investigators he did not know what he was doing was illegal.
Rodriguez said his business began after he bought an international driver's license for himself from a company he found on the Internet. He said when he showed it to a police officer, the officer told him it would be valid for 45 days before he had to get a South Carolina driver's license, according to the report. In two other encounters with police, Rodriguez said he showed the international driver's license and was not told it was fraudulent. He told investigators he assumed it was valid, according to the report.
After buying his own international driver's license, Rodriguez said he found companies on the Internet that made them more cheaply. He used the website to sell to other clients IDs for $120, making a small profit, he said.
Rodriguez is being held for prosecution at the Beaufort County Detention Center. He also is on an ICE hold, which means he is wanted for questioning about his residency status. He is a native of Peru, according to the county jail log. ICE spokesman Vincent Picard said officials have not yet questioned Rodriguez on whether he is in the country lawfully.
Rodriguez' arrest came just a week after an employee of a Bluffton insurance business also was accused of selling counterfeit international driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. Maria Sanchez, 40, who worked at Aseguranzas Internacionales Insurance Services, also was arrested after an undercover operation.
Sgt. Robin McIntosh said the two cases are not related. But investigators don't believe the two are the only individuals providing similar fraudulent IDs, she said.
This type of case "is not new to Beaufort County," McIntosh said.