Miguel Merecias-Lopez, 24, of Woodburn, Oregon, pleaded guilty today to one count each of conspiracy to produce false identification documents and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
According to court documents, from a time unknown until September 21, 2017, Merecias-Lopez and other co-conspirators were part of a Oaxaca, Mexico-based criminal conspiracy to produce and sell fraudulent U.S. government documents.
Conspirators, including Merecias-Lopez, 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 September 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 furtherance of the fraudulent document scheme. Investigators found and seized the materials needed to produce thousands of identification 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-end of the non-binding U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines range 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.