LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Jury selection began Monday for a Chinese national on trial for helping more than 50 people suspected of being in the country illegally get New Mexico driver’s licenses.
Hai Gan, 56, of The Colony, Texas, was U.S. District Court in Las Cruces to face charges he ran an illegal operation to aid immigrants around the country obtain fake licenses. Gan is one of several people over the years linked to running such rings for Chinese nationals living in other states to get driver’s licenses in New Mexico.
New Mexico law allows immigrants, living in the country illegally but residents of the state, to get driver’s licenses.
According to federal prosecutors, Gan advertised in Chinese-language newspapers and told immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally he could help them get licenses by using a New Mexico address.
Prosecutors said Gan, a legal U.S. resident, used in each case one of three New Mexico addresses and charged the immigrants $3,000 for his services.
“Hai Gan knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that the (immigrants) he was assisting were undocumented or out of state and therefore had no legal right to be or remain in the United States,” an indictment said.
Han’s attorney, Francisco Mario Ortiz, did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.
The indictment charged Gan with 51 counts of fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents. He also faces eight counts of transporting immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally; two counts of witness tampering; and three counts of engaging in monetary transactions with property derived from unlawful activities.
Gov. Susana Martinez has highlighted similar fraud cases as reasons to repeal the state’s driver’s license law.
The governor’s license proposal has failed in the Democratic-controlled Legislature since Martinez took office in 2011, but the governor wants lawmakers to again consider it during their current 30-day session.
Eight states, including California, Illinois, Nevada and Colorado, enacted laws last year to grant immigrants living in the country illegally the privilege to drive. But some of those states haven’t started issuing licenses.