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Fugitive convicted on identity theft-related offenses

MIAMI - A 41-year-old Colombian national wanted by the Colombian government for a 1994 double homicide was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida earlier today on federal charges of misusing visas, making false statements to a federal agent and aggravated identity theft following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-led investigation. His extradition to Colombia is pending.

Raul Sanabria Castaneda, aka Ramon Diaz, formerly residing in Pembroke Pines, Fla., was convicted following a bench trial before U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga on two counts of making false statements, two counts of fraud and misuse of visas or permits and one count of aggravated identity theft. He faces up to three years in prison at his sentencing on May 29, 2009.

According to statements and evidence presented in court, on Jan. 23, 2009, ICE special agents arrested Castaneda on immigration violation charges at the Miami Dade courthouse after he appeared in court for arraignment on state misdemeanor charges of battery and disorderly intoxication under the alias of Ramon Diaz.

Sanabria Castaneda was originally arrested on Dec. 26, 2008, by officers of the Miami Dade Police Department (MDPD) on local charges. The MDPD's Homeland Security Bureau contacted ICE because the defendant's immigration status was questionable based on information they had obtained from INTERPOL. ICE special agents conducted an investigation and discovered that the defendant was in the United States illegally and fingerprint analysis of the defendant returned positive results for an international fugitive, Raul Sanabria Castaneda.

ICE special agents interviewed Castaneda, who claimed he was Ramon Diaz, a citizen of Venezuela, having legally entered the United States approximately 10 years ago through John F. Kennedy International Airport. Further investigation revealed that Sanabria Castaneda entered the United States without inspection.

"Once again the on-going cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies has helped to further the interests of justice and the safety of the people of the Southern District of Florida," said U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta.

"Apprehending dangerous foreign fugitives hiding in the United States is a top priority of ICE and our international and local law enforcement partners, including the Miami Dade Police Department and INTERPOL," said Anthony V. Mangione, special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in Miami. "It is in the interest of public safety and justice around the world to capture and return wanted fugitives to their native countries to face justice."

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Lorraine Tashman. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.