CHICAGO (AP) _ A sting operation conducted with the help of a man accused of selling phony identification to people nationwide led to charges against eight of his customers, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The alleged customers were charged with at least one count each of producing and attempting to produce false identification documents.

Prosecutors said Joseph M. Kalady, 61, masterminded the scheme. He was charged with fraudulently obtaining and selling Social Security cards and U.S. passports as well as counterfeit birth certificates.

``The events of Sept. 11 make it clear why we should investigate identity theft and document fraud ... now more than ever,'' said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

The men are not tied to the attacks, in which some of the hijackers allegedly had fake papers, Fitzgerald said.

Kalady was arrested Aug. 13 and immediately agreed to plead guilty and to help authorities catch would-be customers, prosecutors said. The customers were allegedly recorded on audio and video tape at the storefront where the documents were sold.

Prosecutors said five passports are known to have been issued as a result of the scheme, but that 24 applications were spotted as fraudulent.