Three People Sentenced Following Successful Customs’ Investigation Into Identity Documents Forgery Ring
As a result of a Customs operation, a Whanganui business owner and two staff have been sentenced in relation to a sophisticated forgery ring which produced false passports and identity documents and sold them worldwide.
Appearing in the Whanganui District Court today, 46-year-old Anthony Magnoli, the sole Director of Magnoli Props was sentenced to three-months community detention and $10,000 fine. His two staff, 38-year-old Kolbe Hungerford-Morgan was sentenced to two-months’ community detention and $10,000 fine, and 22-year-old Xenia Hungerford-Morgan was discharged without conviction due to the minor administrative role she had.
The defendants each faced two representative charges of knowingly exporting goods for dishonest purposes under the Customs and Excise Act 2018, and two charges of unauthorised use of the name and emblem of the United Nations under the Flags, Emblems and Name Protection Act 1981.
The charges resulted from a Customs’ investigation, codenamed Operation Eldorado, which began in November 2019 in response to information received from overseas enforcement agencies, including the United States’ Department of Homeland Security, about false identity documents being sold and exported from New Zealand.
Customs’ investigations identified the illegal activity was being carried out by a Wanganui based company, Magnoli Props, and executed a search warrant at the business, which operated from Magnoli’s home.
Investigators seized a wide range of equipment, tools and material needed for manufacturing false identity documents, along with partially finished and fully finished identity documents ready for export.
The fake documents included passports, drivers’ licences, and government official ID cards, as well as United Nations’ identification cards and United Nations’ diplomatic passports.
A review of business records revealed numerous customers’ orders which often requested multiple passports made in different nationalities but under one person’s name.
The made-to-order online business supplied buyers from across the globe including the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia.
Nigel Barnes, Chief Customs Officer Fraud and Prohibition, noted that the identity documents which Magnoli manufactured and exported were of extremely high quality.
“Overseas law enforcement found a number of the false documents at their borders, or in the hands of criminals using them for illegal activities including loan fraud.
“Customs and our international partners take this sort of criminal offending very seriously because of the ways such fake documents can be used for illegal purposes.
“Customs will shut down and prosecute anyone who is undertaking this type of criminal activity,” Mr Barnes said.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Attaché Ernest Verina said, “HSI will continue to collaborate with its international law enforcement partners to support great outcomes like this case. I commend the vital collaborative work of New Zealand Customs in their relentless efforts to hold this forgery ring accountable.”