One of ICE’s top lawyers just got busted exploiting undocumented immigrants by stealing their identities

Immigrants brought into custody by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, otherwise known as ICE, are already in a fairly desperate situation by the time they have been put into detention while awaiting legal proceedings.

For seven people imprisoned by ICE, however, the trouble was only beginning.

It seems that these detainees, already in a highly vulnerable position, were taken advantage of by an unscrupulous attorney who also happened to be the chief counsel for ICE in Seattle, Washington, according to an article on the Law & Crime website.

Raphael Sanchez was sentenced to four years in prison this week after he was convicted on one count each of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft after opening credit card accounts and taking out loans using the personal information of seven undocumented immigrants who had been targeted by ICE and were undergoing immigration proceedings.

With Sanchez’s knowledge that the immigrants were languishing in ICE prisons and unable to monitor their credit and bank accounts, the senior legal officer took advantage of the insider information at his disposal to open bank accounts, utility service accounts and email accounts using names, birthdates, Social Security numbers and other information stolen from ICE databases. He also used the stolen data to create fake drivers’ licenses.

A Department of Justice press release gives more details on Sanchez’s crimes.

“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.”

Sanchez was bold in his criminal techniques as described by prosecutors in their court filings.

“Sanchez affixed his own photograph onto the forged identification documents using the information of male Victim Aliens. To forge female Victim Aliens’ identifications, Sanchez was even more brazen: he used the photograph of a murdered woman published in press accounts and the names of female Victim Aliens.”

With people across the country already calling for the dissolution of ICE — a federal agency that has only existed since 2003 — because of its involvement in the separation of innocent children from their asylum seeking families and its oft-violent raids on undocumented immigrants with only a misdemeanor on their court records, the news that one of the agency’s chief legal counsels has been exploiting the incarcerated people under ICE’s control for his own benefit simply adds another reason to the already compelling argument for the elimination of the increasingly rogue organization.

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Vinnie Longobardo

is the Managing Editor of Washington Press and a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.