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Top ICE lawyer in jail after he stole identities from immigrant database

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers process detained undocumented immigrants on April 11 at the U.S. Federal Building in lower Manhattan in New York City. An ICE attorney in Washington state was convicted of stealing identities from seven people on an immigrant database between 2013 and October 2017. (John Moore/Getty Images)

A top lawyer with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been sentenced to four years in jail and ordered to pay nearly $200,000 for stealing identities from immigrant databases.

Raphael Sanchez was the chief counsel for ICE in Seattle, and in charge of all deportation proceedings and asylum hearings for Alaska, Oregon, and Washington.

What were the details of the crime?

Sanchez was convicted of using ICE databases and immigration files to steal the identities of seven people between 2013 and October 2017. Sanchez used the names, social security numbers, birth dates, phone numbers, and addresses of these immigrants to create counterfeit identity documents.

When he created these false documents, Sanchez would use his own photo if the identity belonged to a man, and a publicly available photo of a female murder victim if the identity belong to a woman. Sanchez claimed three of these fake identities as dependents on his tax returns.

Sanchez used these identities to open bank accounts, email accounts, and credit cards, and even registered a car under the name of one of the female victims. He stole more than $190,000 using these accounts. He targeted people without legal status so that they wouldn't be able to report the theft to authorities if they managed to find out.

In addition to his nearly $200,000 in stolen funds, Sanchez was earning a six-figure salary during this time period as an attorney for ICE.

According to a news release from the agency, ICE is currently looking into the files of the immigrants targeted by Sanchez, to make sure that Sanchez's actions "did not adversely impact any immigration matter." The news release also contains contact information for anyone who thinks that they also may have been a victim of Sanchez.

How was he caught?

Sanchez continued his crime spree until an ICE audit flagged one of his accounts for suspicious activity. An investigation followed, and Sanchez was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

What was the sentence?

A judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington sentenced Sanchez to four years in jail and ordered him to pay $190,000 in restitution to the victims.

Sanchez, via his lawyer, admitted that he “abused a position of public trust” defrauding  “particularly vulnerable” victims. He pled guilty to two felony charges in February.

What else?

Ironically, in 2016 while he was in the middle of his four-year identity theft stint, Sanchez was in charge of an internal fraud investigation into another man, Jonathan Love. Love falsified ICE documents in an attempt to get an immigrant deported who had legal grounds to remain in the country.

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