Mar 092009
Authors: Ivan Moreno

GREELEY, Colo. – Opening arguments got under way Monday in a lawsuit against Weld County authorities over tax records seized in an identity theft investigation.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued District Attorney Ken Buck and the Weld County Sheriff’s Department over their investigation targeting more than 1,300 illegal immigrants.

Buck said the immigrants were filing federal taxes using false or stolen identities. The ACLU says the tax records are confidential and authorities had no right to seize the them from a Amalia’s Translation and Tax Services in Greeley.

The ACLU is demanding that authorities return or destroy the tax files taken from the business.

Prosecutors say 54 cases are pending, in addition to six that were filed through a grand jury. Some defendants have already pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and criminal impersonation.

District attorney’s spokeswoman Jennifer Finch said those who have plead guilty can receive a four-year suspended prison sentence if they comply with deportation proceedings.

Immigrant advocates, like the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, say the people charged are being punished for doing what the law requires them to do – pay taxes.

Regardless of legal status, people who earn income in the U.S. are required to pay taxes.

Buck says the defendants were breaking the law by being in the country illegally in the first place.

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