Former ICE top lawyer raided US govt database to steal aliens' identities

While kicking folks out of 'Murica, Raphael A. Sanchez committed fraud in their names

Yet again an insider has been caught misusing a workplace computer system to conduct identity theft and fraud.

Unusually, the perp was, at the time, serving as the head lawyer for the US government's Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) at the time. And rather than turning to the dark web for people's personal information, he instead plundered ICE's database of non-Americans.

Raphael A. Sanchez, 44, former chief counsel of the OPLA, which provides legal services to ICE, pleaded guilty today to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for using information stolen from numerous non-citizens for personal enrichment.

What an ICE-hole

"Raphael Sanchez betrayed that solemn responsibility and abused his official position to prey upon aliens for his own personal gain," said Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan in a statement, adding that we should not let one bad actor mar the work of ICE – which generally involves rounding up undocumented aliens and booting them from the US.

In his guilty plea, Sanchez, who oversaw deportation proceedings in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, acknowledged that, from October 2013 through October 2017, he defrauded seven aliens who were in various stages of court proceedings to be ejected from or excluded from the country.

Sanchez admitted misusing ICE's database and paper immigration A-files to forge identification documents on his work computer, such as social security cards and Washington State driver's licenses. And with these fake documents, he opened credit card accounts and bank accounts in victims' names.

Loans ranger

"For his own personal gain, Sanchez used personally identifiable information of victim aliens to open lines of credit and personal loans in their names, manipulated their credit bureau files, transferred funds and purchased goods using credit cards issued in their names," explained the statement of facts provided to the US courts.

Sanchez used credit monitoring services to check victims' credit scores, and wrote to credit bureaus to change his marks' home addresses and challenge account closures. He even claimed three aliens as dependents on his tax returns from 2014 through 2016, presumably for tax breaks.

Nearly two-hundred large pocketed

Sanchez's scheme involved making charges or drawing payments in the names of his victims. He set up a corporation called "Royal Weddings," an Amazon Marketplace account, and trade names like "Cool and Quirky Classic Cars" to funnel funds from his victims' accounts to his own pockets.

He also used PayPal and mobile payment terminals from Amazon, Coin, Square, and Venmo to process fraudulent purchases.

All told, the losses incurred in the names of victims at various financial institutions amounted to more than $190,000.

The statement of facts points out that the victims were particularly susceptible to Sanchez's criminal conduct because they were in the process of being deported or otherwise excluded from the country by ICE.

In addition to information related to the seven individuals victimized, ICE investigators found personal data for another 20 individuals, in the form of Legal Permanent Resident cards and other immigration documents, at Sanchez's home.

Sanchez is due to be sentenced on May 11, 2018, in a Washington state court. His agreement to plead guilty, drawn up by prosecutors to avoid a lengthy trial, recommends a four-year sentence. ®

Updated to add on June 28, 2018

Sanchez was indeed sent down for four years.

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