Valley woman unknowingly uses fake Social Security card

PHOENIX - A Valley woman spent time in jail for stealing someone's identity after she unknowingly used a fake social security card.

Estafania Rosas like many other DREAMer students didn't know she was in the U.S. illegally until she was 16 years old.

When she was 14, Estafania asked her parents for a Social Security card so she could work and help her family make ends meet.

She didn't know she was too young and she didn't know the identification card they gave her was fraudulent.

"I didn't know it was fake until I was applying for scholarships my senior year in high school. I was crushed. I grew up thinking this was my country, like I was born here," said Estafania.

Once she discovered the card was fake, she says she quit using it and focused on her dream of getting a college education.

But her dream came crashing down when her mother was stopped for a traffic violation.

The officer searched her mom's car and found Estafania's fake ID.

According to court documents, the officer then created a "ruse" to lure Estafania to the police station to come pick-up her mother. 

The documents show the officer told Estafania's sister their mother was specifically asking for Estafania and he could not release her mother to anyone else.

"I wasn't suspicious; I didn't think about me, I was concerned for my mom so I went for my mom," said Estafania.

Once at the station, the officer questioned Estafania about the false document and arrested her.

"It was devastating you know, he's reading me my rights and I'm just thinking about by mom," explained Estafania.

Estafania had never committed a crime and getting into legal trouble was the furthest thing from her mind. 

But now, she was a criminal, being treated and jailed like one.

"It was hard, because it's like why? I never meant to do anything," said Estafania.

Originally charged with two felony counts of forgery, the then 20-year-old spent eight months in jail with some of Maricopa's most violent criminals including admitted killer and convicted murderer Jodi Arias.

"I didn't know much about her, so it's crazy to think I was in a holding cell with someone who did something that big" said Estafania.

She admits it was the most frightening and worst time of her young life.

"I was scared, some girls can be rough, and being away from my family scared me a lot," she recalled.

"A young person her age gets a fake ID to go to the bar and is usually given a warning to stop, or a ticket for a misdemeanor. We need to take the race and immigration out of it and ask if this is just," said Estafania's attorney Lance Wells.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery declined an interview for this story. But in an email he answered all our questions, telling ABC15, Estafania was held in jail under the Prop 100 law passed by Arizona voters in 2006.

The law "requires defendants charged with felonies who are in the U.S. without lawful authority be held without bond."

Wells agrees that Prop 100 is to blame and embarrassingly admits he voted for it, but wouldn't again.

"I hate to confess it, but I voted for it not understanding the ramifications and I'm an attorney. Now we're seeing firsthand the ramifications," Wells explained.

MCAO spokesperson Jerry Cobb also pointed out their office chose not to file charges in five recent ID theft cases writing, "When we have evidence to file charges we file charges, and when we don't, we don't."

Estafania finally agreed to a plea bargain that reduced her two felony charges to a misdemeanor.

"The resolution of this case was based on the type of discussion, negotiation and consideration of evidence that occurs in other criminal cases. The MCAO is committed to the full and fair enforcement of our laws," said Montgomery.

Ironically, when Estafania was released, her deferred action card was waiting for her at home. Her family tells ABC15 it arrived in the mail eight months earlier, on the very day she had been arrested.

She proudly pulls the card from her back pocket to show us, as if it were made of gold. And for Estafania it is. It's a golden ticket to stay in the U.S., a ticket that dares her to dream her biggest dreams.

"I want to be a good person for this country, I want to make changes in this world and with this card I can. It gives me hope," Estafania said with a school girl grin from ear to ear.

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