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Document and Benefit Fraud
03/19/2008

ICE nabs 2 Puerto Ricans for illegally selling and transferring valid birth certificates and Social Security cards

YAUCO, Puerto Rico - Two targets of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation into the illegal sale and use of valid Puerto Rican birth certificates and Social Security cards, were arrested here yesterday by ICE special agents for violations to 18 United States Code (USC), Section 1820 and 42 USC, Section 408.

Jose Antonio Torres, 31, and Sharon Aguayo Rivera, 37, had two outstanding federal arrest warrants issued by the District of Delaware for their alleged participation in a conspiracy to sell and transfer Puerto Rican birth certificates and Social Security cards via mail transfers to the state of Delaware. These documents were ultimately used to satisfy documentary requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as it relates to employment. Moreover, once in receipt of these documents, individuals could fraudulently obtain all the rights and privileges of a U.S. citizen, including gaining employment, voting, purchasing firearms and obtaining valid passports to access U.S. borders.

These are the latest arrests associated with the ICE-led joint federal investigation that have netted dozens of arrests on sale and use of fraudulent documents. On November 6, 2007, a federal Grand Jury sitting in Wilmington, Delaware returned indictments charging Joan Santiago, of Blades, Delaware; Oscar Laines, of Selbyville, Delaware; and Hugo Lopez-Olguin, of Seaford, Delaware; each with identity theft and the unlawful transfer of Social Security cards and birth certificates. According to the indictments, these three defendants collectively bought and/or sold approximately 129 Social Security cards and birth certificates.

"Document fraud is an extremely lucrative form of white-collar crime that is complex and challenging to investigate, often involving sophisticated schemes and multiple co-conspirators that take years to investigate and prosecute," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, acting special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Puerto Rico. "We will continue using all our resources to shut down this vulnerability to our immigration system and our national security."

Torres and Aguayo Rivera were transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico awaiting the outcome of their case.

The public is reminded that charges contained in an indictment are merely allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.