ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An Illinois man faces human smuggling charges after investigators say he placed an ad in a Chicago-area Polish language newspaper, offering to drive illegal immigrants to New Mexico to take advantage of the state's lax driver's license rules.
"Social security not necessary. 100 percent guarantee," read the notice allegedly posted by 32-year-old Jaroslaw Kowalczyk of Des Plaines, Ill.
Kowalczyk is accused of driving two Polish immigrants from Chicago to Albuquerque this month, charging them $1,000 each and trying to help them get driver's licenses, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque
New Mexico is one of four states — along with Hawaii, Utah and Washington — where no proof of immigration status is required to obtain a driver's license.
Kowalczyk waived a preliminary hearing Thursday and was jailed pending trial. His court-appoitned attorney, David Streubel, said he couldn't comment because he'd just met Kowalczyk, who doesn't speak English, and was gathering information.
Kowalczyk was arrested July 21 at a northeast Albuquerque Motor Vehicle Division office along with two other Polish nationals — all illegal immigrants, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The two went to get their driver's licenses, hit a snag and asked for help, drawing the attention of employees. Investigators came and interviewed them, then talked to Kowalczyk and arrested him. The two other men weren't arrested, according to court records.
Kowalczyk told investigators he was paid $150 for each person brought to New Mexico and the remaining $850 went to a person identified in the complaint only as Alexander and Alex. Kowalczyk said Alex paid for his cell phone, gasoline and the newspaper advertisement.
The complaint says Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents recently have reported "a significant number" of fraud arrests in Albuquerque involving undocumented citizens of Mexico, Poland, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala seeking New Mexico licenses.
Most of those people, it says, have come from Georgia, Florida, New York and Illinois.
Applicants for a New Mexico driver's license need some documents, such as a birth certificate, a passport and a utility bill with a New Mexico address. Foreign-issued passports are acceptable.
Michael Sandoval, director of New Mexico's Motor Vehicle Division, said he wasn't aware of any recent spike in fraud cases.
Sandoval said New Mexico uses a thorough system to evaluate the authenticity of documents submitted by foreign nationals.
"What usually happens is we'll look at the documents, and if we see something we don't feel comfortable about, we turn them away," he said. "This case went a little further than that, but I don't think it is happening too frequently."