After authorities investigated thousands of tax files for bogus Social Security numbers used by illegals to steal refunds, the ACLU responded with a class-action lawsuit – but now a Colorado district attorney is fighting back.
The Weld County district attorney, sheriff's office and the Greeley Police Department launched "Operation Number Games" in August last year. They investigated 5,000 tax files after one suspect, Servando Trejo, filed taxes through Amalia's Translation and Tax Service, the Rocky Mountain News reported.
The man admitted using a fake name and Social Security number to Amalia Cerrillo, his tax preparer. He was linked to a Texas man who reported his Social Security number had been stolen.
"I'm not here to judge them," Cerrillo told the Los Angeles Times last year. "If they need to file taxes, then I help them file taxes."
In October, authorities served a warrant to search files at the tax company. They were looking for people who filed for returns using identification belonging to other Americans. Of the 5,000 documents they searched, they found 1,300 cases of possible Social Security fraud.
"Obviously, the federal government isn't doing their job, and it's falling to local agencies to do it," Weld County Sheriff John Cooke told the Times.
Officials said the average tax return they investigated reported workers paying as little as $800 in taxes, claiming numerous exemptions and credits and receiving refunds of more than $2,000.
District Attorney Ken Buck
Authorities considered the operation to be a huge success – and then the ACLU stepped in with a class-action lawsuit, alleging the campaign violated privacy laws.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Cerrillo in Weld District Court on Jan 26.
"It doesn't surprise me that the ACLU is taking the side of illegal immigrants over the side of U.S. citizens who have become victims of identity theft," District Attorney Ken Buck told the Greeley Tribune.
"You can take anything to absurdity, and that's what they're trying to do here," he said.
Buck decided to take action. He came up with a plan to earn money and fight the lawsuit – with a T-shirt.
The front of his shirt says "The ACLU Sued My District Attorney & Sheriff," and the back states, "Weld County Standing Up For Americans."
"I wanted to send a very clear message that we're not going to be intimidated. That there are a lot of people here that are going to support us," Buck told Northern Colorado's News 5.
He designed and produced 160 $10 T-shirts – and they're selling fast.
Buck said he may add hats and sweatshirts to his collection. He also plans to host a bake sale. All proceeds go to the legal defense fund to offset taxpayer funds and combat the ACLU's lawsuit.
Dustin Mundell of Kersey told the news station he went to the DA's office to get his shirt in person because he was afraid they would sell out.
He told reporters, "I just think it's ridiculous that an organization like the ACLU would go after something like that when there was illegal immigrants involved."
T-shirts are available at the Weld County District Attorney website.