WASHINGTON — Two individuals each pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to commit identity fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit human smuggling for financial gain for their respective roles in trafficking the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents.
These guilty pleas were announced by the following agency heads: Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico, Director Sarah R. Saldaña of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Director Bill A. Miller of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), and Chief Richard Weber of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
Francisco Matos-Beltre, 42, a U.S. citizen formerly of Philadelphia, and Alejandro Tello-Rojas, aka Joel Ocasio-Cancel, aka William Davila, 36, a Mexican citizen formerly of Lawrenceville, Georgia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Juan M. Perez-Gimenez of the District of Puerto Rico. On Aug. 6, 2015, Matos-Beltre, an identity document supplier, and Tello-Rojas, an identity document broker, were charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico. To date, 14 individuals have been charged for their roles in the identity trafficking scheme; eight defendants have pleaded guilty, and six individuals remain fugitives.
According to admissions made in connection with the Sept. 14 guilty pleas, identity document runners located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico, obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. The defendants admitted that other conspirators, identified as identity document suppliers and brokers, were located in various cities throughout the United States. These other conspirators allegedly solicited customers for the sale of social security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set. The defendants also acknowledged that the conspirators used text messages, money transfer services and U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.
The defendants also admitted that they sold Puerto Rican identity documents to customers who 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 obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport, according to the plea agreements. At the time of his arrest, Tello-Rojas had assumed the identity of Ocasio-Cancel, a Puerto Rican U.S. citizen.
The Chicago offices of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI led this investigation, dubbed Operation Island Express II, with assistance from the HSI San Juan Office and the DSS Resident Office in Puerto Rico. The HSI Assistant Attaché office in the Dominican Republic and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center provided invaluable support with assistance from ICE, USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices around the country.
Trial Attorney Marianne Shelvey of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, and Trial Attorney Frank Rangoussis of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, are prosecuting this case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Puerto Rico is providing assistance in this matter.
Potential victims and the public may obtain information about this case at: www.justice.gov/criminal/vns/caseup/beltrerj.html. Anyone who believes their identity may have been compromised in relation to this investigation, or who may have information about particular crimes in this case, should call the ICE toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or use its online tip form at www.ice.gov/tipline.
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. Additional resources regarding identity theft can be found at the following websites: www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.html and www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=186436,00.html.