Chief Counsel Raphael A. Sanchez of the U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) was
sentenced to 48 months in prison for a wire fraud and aggravated
identity theft scheme involving the identities of numerous aliens,
announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the
Justice Department’s Criminal Division and ICE Principal Legal Advisor
Sanchez, 44, of Seattle, Washington, pleaded guilty on Feb. 24, to
one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. In
addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Robert S. Lasnik
of the Western District of Washington ordered Sanchez to pay $190,345.63
“Raphael Sanchez was entrusted with overseeing the honest enforcement
of our country’s immigration laws,” said Acting Assistant Attorney
General Cronan. “Instead, Sanchez abused that trust, and capitalized on
his position at ICE to exploit his victims and line his own pockets.”
“ICE employees are required to ensure honest enforcement of more than
400 laws,” said ICE Principal Legal Advisor Short. “We cannot let one
bad actor detract from the work the agency’s dedicated employees in
Seattle and across the world are doing to ensure our national security
and uphold public safety. Our employees are held to the highest
standards of professional conduct. Individuals who violate the public’s
trust will face consequences for their actions, as Mr. Sanchez did in
this case. Corruption will not be tolerated.”
Sanchez, who was responsible for immigration removal proceedings in
Alaska, Oregon and Washington, admitted in his plea agreement that he
intentionally devised a scheme to defraud aliens in various stages of
immigration removal proceedings with ICE. Sanchez used the personally
identifiable information of those aliens to open lines of credit and
personal loans in their names, manipulate their credit bureau files,
transfer funds to himself and to purchase goods for himself using credit
cards issued in their names.
Sanchez admitted that he obtained personally identifiable information
of the victim aliens by using ICE’s official computer database systems
and by accessing their official, hard-copy immigration A-files. He then
used his work computer to forge identification documents, including
Social Security cards and Washington State driver’s licenses, in the
victims’ names. Sanchez used these forged documents to open credit card
and bank accounts subject to his own control in the names of the
To further the scheme, Sanchez listed his residence as the aliens’
home addresses on account paperwork. In some cases, he created public
utility account statements in their names to provide the necessary proof
of residence to open lines of credit in their names or to conceal the
scheme. He also opened e-mail and online financial accounts in the
names of several aliens, and manufactured a false earnings-and-leave
statement in the name of an alien and registered a car in her name.
Once the accounts were approved and opened, Sanchez made charges or
drew payments totaling more than $190,000 in the names of aliens to
himself or entities that he controlled, often using PayPal and mobile
point-of-sale devices from Amazon, Square, Venmo and Coin to process the
fraudulent transactions. In a number of cases, Sanchez purchased goods
online in the names of aliens and had them shipped to his residence.
Sanchez also employed credit-monitoring services and corresponded with
credit bureaus in the names of aliens to conceal his fraud scheme.
Sanchez also claimed three aliens as relative dependents on his tax
returns for 2014, 2015, and 2016.
ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the FBI, and the U.S.
Postal Inspection Service investigated the case. Trial Attorneys Luke
Cass and Jessica C. Harvey of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity
Section prosecuted the case.