Business Owner Busted for Identity Theft; Case Touted as "First," But It's Really Not All That

Plenty of noise has been made today about the arrest of Raphael Libardi, owner of a granite-importing business busted on suspicion of identity theft.

A news release by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas calls it a "historic first." An Associated Press article calls Libardi the "first business owner in Arizona to be criminally charged in an investigation of suspected employer sanctions violations."

But this bust, while interesting, isn't exactly groundbreaking. Libardi's an illegal immigrant who happens to own a business. Get back to us when you've got a real employer-sanctions case.

Libardi, meanwhile, isn't being accused of anything other than stealing a man's Social Security number so he could operate like a U.S. citizen. Though he's alleged to have obtained a home mortgage and vehicle loans with the number, the County Attorney's news release doesn't allege Libardi wasn't making his payments [true, more info on the case is bound to come out].

As it stands, Libardi appears to be the cream of the crop, you could say, when it comes to entrepreneurial undocumented residents. The Brazilian citizen and his family, some members of which were busted for being in the country illegally, too, seemed to be on their way toward a Stevie award.

The Foothills Focus says Libardi's business, Aracruz International Granite, employed 15-20 people and generated nearly $2 million in annual sales. Libardi owned a $500,000 home in Anthem.

The company's slick Web site mentions a showroom in Scottsdale and a warehouse in Phoenix, includes a "bill of rights" for customers, and emphasizes the fact that Aracruz is a family business.

What part of making a million dollars do you think Libardi didn't understand?

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.