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June 28, 2018Seattle, United StatesProfessional Responsibility

Former Seattle Chief Counsel sentenced to 4 years in prison for wire fraud, aggravated identity theft scheme

ICE internal investigation helped obtain conviction

SEATTLE – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) former Chief Counsel for the Seattle Office of Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) was sentenced to 48 months in prison for a wire fraud and aggravated identity theft scheme involving the identities of numerous aliens.

The investigation into Raphael Sanchez’s scheme began with ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). The office received information that Sanchez was operating a financial account for outside consulting services in a suspicious manner, and its internal investigation led to criminal charges being filed against Sanchez.

“Mr. Sanchez acted alone in his criminal enterprise and his actions should not reflect on the hardworking men and women at Seattle’s Office of the Chief Counsel. The investigation conducted by ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility demonstrates that employees who violate public trust will be held accountable,” said Tracy Short, Principal Legal Advisor for ICE. “His sentence sends a strong message that corruption will not be tolerated.”

Sanchez, who was responsible for immigration removal proceedings in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, admitted in his plea agreement that he intentionally devised a scheme to defraud aliens in various stages of immigration removal proceedings with ICE. Sanchez used the personally identifiable information of those aliens to open lines of credit and personal loans in their names, manipulated their credit bureau files and transferred funds to and purchased goods for himself using credit cards issued in their names.

Sanchez admitted that he obtained personally identifiable information of the victim aliens by using ICE’s official computer database systems and by accessing their official, hard-copy immigration A-files. He then used his work computer to forge identification documents, including social security cards and Washington State driver’s licenses, in the victims’ names. Sanchez used these forged documents to open credit card and bank accounts subject to his own control in the names of the aliens. ICE is currently reviewing the immigration cases of each of the victims to ensure that Sanchez did not adversely impact any immigration matter for his own personal gain.

To further the scheme, Sanchez listed his residence as the aliens’ home addresses on account paperwork. In some cases, he created public utility account statements in their names to provide the necessary proof of residence to open lines of credit in their names or to conceal the scheme. He also opened e-mail and online financial accounts in the names of several aliens, manufactured a false earnings-and-leave statement in the name of an alien, and registered a car in her name.

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 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.

If any individual believes they may have been a victim of Sanchez’s criminal activity, they may report such an allegation to ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility at 1-877-2INTAKE or