A former state Division of Vital Records clerk has pleaded guilty to a scheme in which he sold birth and death certificates to black market buyers, the state attorney general's office reported.
Nathan Green, 22, of Baltimore sold birth certificates for $40 and death certificates for $500, and also provided an official certificate of the document's authenticity, said Assistant Attorney General Michael A. Zwaig.
"You can use your imagination as to how creative individuals could use such documents," Mr. Zwaig said. "The possibilities are endless."
The possibilities include using the phony birth certificates for obtaining a U.S. passport or work visa. Death certificates even could be used for turning in a false life insurance claim, he said.
"We don't know if it was actually done, but I could surmise someone might try," Mr. Zwaig said.
Green pleaded guilty to bribery charges Monday in Baltimore Circuit Court before Judge David Mitchell. Prosecutors are recommending a three-year jail sentence, with two years suspended.
Mr. Zwaig said Green, who worked in the vital records office on Patterson Avenue for 18 months, was fired from his job immediately after his Jan. 27 arrest. State officials have tightened security measures at the records office.
Authorities said they don't know how many false documents Green sold before undercover agents bought birth certificates from him. The scheme was a simple one, in which Green used his access to the records vault to make photocopies of actual birth or death certificates. Before photocopying, he would white out the real person's name and type in the name of the person who wanted to buy one of the documents, Mr. Zwaig said.
The vital records division, a branch of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is responsible for record keeping and documenting all births and deaths. Green often was asked at the office to make legitimate copies of the documents for citizens, Mr. Zwaig said.
The black market customers typically would have the same age as the person in the document, and Green would need only to change the name on the certificates, prosecutors said.
Authorities caught on to the scheme after U.S. Secret Service agents arrested an unnamed foreign national with a false birth certificate that came from Green, prosecutors said.
The state attorney general's office was notified and undercover agents arranged to buy documents from Green, who met them at the Reisterstown Road Plaza shopping center for the deal, prosecutors said.
He sold them birth certificates and accepted payment for a death certificate he agreed to give them at a later date. After his arrest, several falsified birth certificates were found
on his person, prosecutors said.
Green will be sentenced Sept. 25 in Baltimore Circuit Court.
Mr. Zwaig said it is unknown how Green developed the scheme and the investigation is continuing.