Even though federal immigration attorneys are supposed to protect the public by providing honest, ethical representation, one U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement attorney decided to abuse his position and steal the identities of the immigrants whose information came through the office. Raphael Sanchez was the chief counsel for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Seattle. Now, he’s set for sentencing in a federal court after pleading guilty to using his position to steal the identities of people filing immigration paperwork in his office.
Sanchez entered a guilty plea to aggravated identity theft. He also admitted to committing wire fraud. A judge in the U.S. Western Washington federal court accepted the guilty plea. The case now moves to a sentencing hearing in May that will decide Sanchez’ fate.
According to Washington Post, as part of the plea, Sanchez worked out a sentence recommendation with federal prosecutors. They say both sides agree that four years in federal prison is fair. There’s no word on whether the judge will honor the sentencing agreement.
As ICE’s leading man in the Seattle office, Sanchez oversaw cases in Alaska, Oregon, Idaho and Washington. With that power, he chose to steal the identities of eight different people. Using the identities, he took out loans that totaled $190,000. Sanchez allegedly found his victims by using the ICE database.
Once he had a victim in mind, he used their information to make a fake driver’s license and fake utility bills. For a photo, he used his own picture. If he stole the identity of a woman, he used a photo of a murder victim.
Once he had the paperwork, he took out credit cards and loans using the false identities. Some of the victims were in deportation proceedings and weren’t even in the United States to know that they were being scammed. Authorities say that was part of Sanchez’ plan to avoid discovery. Authorities also say they found 20 more identities ready to go in Sanchez’ home.
It isn’t the first time that a Seattle ICE attorney has abused their position. In 2016, another official forged a document in order make an immigrant ineligible to stay in the United States. Officials noticed the fraud because the officer forged a document with a date that was earlier than when the form even existed for use. The offending offer served time in prison for the offense. Officials decided to grant the victim a green card.