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Facial scan leads to charge against Burnsville man

  • Article by: JANE FRIEDMANN
  • Star Tribune
  • November 11, 2011 - 11:20 AM

Eduardo Sein got a Minnesota identification card in 1999. Gerardo Jimenez-Sanchez got a driver's permit in 2008.

As part of a massive database scan designed to root out fraud, the state used facial-recognition software to determine that the official photos of Sein and Jimenez-Sanchez had an uncanny resemblance. Now that match has led to an indictment of a Burnsville resident on a charge of unlawfully re-entering the United States after having been deported to Mexico as a criminal, according to Jeanne F. Cooney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office.

The only way to obtain more than one state driver's license or identification card is by submitting fraudulent documents, said Kristine Chapin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Those in the country illegally are not eligible for a state driver's license, she said.

State kept old ID photo

Though the 1999 identification card was canceled for either improper application documents or misconduct, the photo remained in the state's database.

In 2008, the state began using a sophisticated computer system that identifies key characteristics of a person's face and looks for matches elsewhere in the database.

After the system identified Jimenez-Sanchez and Sein as matches, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ran his information through a national criminal database. The task force focuses on identifying illegal immigrants through their use of fraudulent documents.

The search revealed that Jimenez-Sanchez had a 1997 felony conviction in California for possession of cocaine and that he was later deported. He was tracked down in Minnesota and is in custody. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and subsequent deportation.

The state has been working its way through a mountain of photo matches.

"We did an initial scrub of our entire database in 2008, around 11 million records," said Pat McCormack, director of Drivers and Vehicle Services, a division of the DPS. "The software flagged 1.29 million photos that were potentially fraudulent."

Caught in the net

Since then, workers have been manually inspecting the flagged photos and looking back at the documentation used to obtain the licenses.

If questions remain, people are sent a letter asking them to come to an interview "so they can support who they say they are," McCormack said.

Some people never respond. Some show up but can't prove their identity. A few identical twins have been wrongly snared in the net.

So far, 6,528 licenses, permits and identification cards have been canceled, with 90,000 photos left to vet.

"We're preventing fraud," McCormack said, "but it's very staff intensive. You do have to have people, the human factor."

The federal grant that got the program started was meant to identify fraudulent commercial driver's licenses.

Now a new federal grant is being used to replace all the cameras that take driver's license and ID photos across the state. This will give the recognition system higher accuracy.

jfriedmann@startribune.com 612-673-7852

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