A Woodburn man pleaded guilty this week to his involvement in a Oaxaca, Mexico-based criminal conspiracy to produce and sell fraudulent U.S. government documents. 24-year-old Miguel Merecias-Lopez also pleaded guilty to trafficking methamphetamine.
According to court documents, Merecias-Lopez and his co-conspirators maintained a clandestine photo lab in Woodburn where they used various computers, scanners, laminators, digital cameras and a high-resolution printer to produce the fraudulent documents. They would communicate with customers in-person and electronically via email, Facebook and Snapchat, and receive payments via PayPal, U.S. mail or in person.
On Sept. 21, 2017, investigators arrested Merecias-Lopez in a fast food parking lot in Woodburn when he arrived to conduct a drug deal. More than a kilogram of methamphetamine was found on Merecias-Lopez’s person. A subsequent search of Merecias-Lopez’s apartment produced additional methamphetamine and equipment used in the fake doc shop scheme. Investigators found and seized enough materials to produce thousands of fake ID cards.
A review of electronic devices found in Merecias-Lopez’s apartment produced evidence that the conspiracy had operated in Woodburn for more than a decade and produced and sold more than 10,000 different fraudulent documents, including driver’s licenses for more than 25 states, U.S. social security cards, immigration-related documents including non-immigrant visas and legal permanent resident cards, marriage licenses, vehicle bills of sale and titles, and birth certificates. Merecias-Lopez was personally responsible for producing more than 300 fraudulent U.S. government documents.
A charge of conspiracy to produce false identification documents carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years’ supervised release. A charge of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine carries of maximum sentence of life in prison with a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence, a $10,000,000 fine and five years’ supervised release.
The government and defense counsel representing Merecias-Lopez are jointly recommending a sentence on the low rt end of these ranges when he is sentenced on June 18, 2019 before U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Westside Interagency Narcotics Team (WIN), the Clackamas County Interagency Task Force (CCITF) and the Woodburn Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Peter D. Sax, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.