EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 2, 2008

Savvy criminals obliterating fingerprints to avoid identification

When Edgardo Tirado took off his gloves in the Lawrence police booking room to be fingerprinted after his Feb. 7 drug arrest, police saw rows of thick stitches on the tips of his fingers and thumbs.

"I thought right away, this guy is hiding from something in his past and is not who he says he is," said Detective Daron Fraser. "His story was not believable."

Tirado told officers he got the wounds defending himself in a fight with another man who had a knife, and the man cut the tips of his fingers and thumbs. He wouldn't tell police where the fight took place.

Fraser didn't believe him, and the next day, the detective would learn his hunch was correct.

Edgardo Tirado turned out to be Gerald Perez, 33, of 4 Lynch St., and the stitches were part of a procedure he had performed in the Dominican Republic to obliterate his fingerprints, making him impossible to identify through normal law enforcement means. An officer who had dealt with Perez before was the one who made the connection.

Police are seeing more and more cases of fingerprint obliteration as criminals become more and more savvy in trying to avoid detection. Fraser said a lot of criminals go to the Dominican Republic to have the procedures performed, and the procedures are not being done by licensed medical people.

"It is a cash business with no set fee. It runs $1,000 to $7,000 to have it done," Fraser said. "This is not something someone is doing in the confines of their home."

He said police have seen similar cases five or six times during the past two years.

Fraser said once the fingerprints are obliterated, it is easy for the criminal to spend $300 to $3,000 on the black market for new identification documents, such as a birth certificate and a Social Security Card, the amount depending on how clean the person wants the criminal record to be.

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