SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A 49-year-old Dominican Republic man wanted for document fraud and identity theft was arrested earlier this week at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working jointly with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents.
Victor Manuel Rivera, at large since January, is one of 50 individuals indicted by a federal grand jury for their alleged participation in a conspiracy to commit identification fraud in connection with a scheme to traffic the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and their corresponding identity documents. The charges are the result of an extensive investigation led by HSI in partnership with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
The indictment, unsealed Jan. 11, alleges that from at least April 2009 to December 2011, conspirators in 15 states and Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, trafficked the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens, corresponding Social Security cards, Puerto Rico birth certificates and other identification documents to undocumented aliens and others residing in the United States.
The indictment alleges that conspirators located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico, (Savarona suppliers) obtained the Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Conspirators in various locations throughout the United States (identity brokers) solicited customers. The identity brokers allegedly sold Social Security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set. The indictment alleges that identity brokers ordered the identity documents from Savarona suppliers, on behalf of the customers, by making coded telephone calls, including using terms such as "shirts," "uniforms" or "clothes," to refer to identity documents. Specifically, the brokers asked for "skirts" for female customers and "pants" for male customers in various "sizes," which referred to the ages of the identities sought by the customers.
According to the indictment, the Savarona suppliers generally requested that customers' initial payments be sent by the identity brokers through a money transfer service to persons whose names were provided by the Savarona suppliers. Savarona suppliers allegedly retrieved the payments from the money transfer service and then sent the identity documents to the brokers using express, priority or regular U.S. mail. The indictment alleges that various conspirators sent or received money and mail parcels. The conspirators frequently confirmed sender names and addresses, money transfer control numbers and trafficked identities via text messaging.
The indictment further alleges that once the identity brokers received the identity documents, they delivered the documents to the customers and obtained second payments. The brokers generally kept the second payments for themselves as profit. Some identity brokers allegedly assumed a Puerto Rican identity themselves, and used that identity in connection with the trafficking operation.
As alleged in the indictment, the customers generally obtained the identity documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and to obtain additional identification documents, such as legitimate state driver's licenses. Some customers allegedly obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempts to obtain a U.S. passport.
Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of identity theft, or wants information about preventing identity theft, may obtain helpful information and complaint forms on various government websites including the Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Website, www.ftc.gov/idtheft.