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ICE arrests 5 for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Four women and one man were arrested on Wednesday in the municipalities of Carolina, Canovanas and Ponce, Puerto Rico, for their alleged participation in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, following an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) Band Robbery Division.

On Tuesday, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a 16-count indictment, charging former Doral Bank employee Bethzaida Sánchez Crespo, her consensual partner Abigail Y. Ramos Clemente, Darling M. Rosario Sánchez, Leonardo Sánchez Crespo and Carmen A. Clemente Rosado of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Bethzaida Sánchez Crespo was also charged with the intent to injure and defraud Doral Bank of approximately $192,000.

The indictment alleges that from approximately Dec.14, 2009 through April 2010, the defendants conspired to obtain access to three of Doral Bank's high-balance customers' accounts, change the mailing addresses on those accounts and request the issuance of Visa debit cards, and use those Visa debit cards to withdraw large amounts of cash and make large purchases of expensive luxury items, all with the intent to illegally defraud the federally insured financial institution of its assets.

"The identification and arrest of those who try to circumvent our laws, putting at risk public safety, is one of ICE's priorities," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in San Juan. "ICE will continue using all its resources to investigate these crimes as well as working with our federal, state and local partners to bring to justice those who think that their illegal actions can go undetected."

"The defendants used the victims' monies to pay for their car loans, residential electricity bill and cable television bill. Others bought furniture or just withdrew money from ATMs. It is not acceptable what these individuals were doing," said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. "These defendants affected not just financial institutions but ordinary citizens who trusted their savings at a bank, while one irresponsible employee was stealing and using the victims' monies. I want to assure the public that we will not rest until the tide of financial criminal activity is turned."

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum term of up to 30 years in prison for counts one and two, fines of up to $1 million, and an additional mandatory term of up to six years in prison for the aggravated identity theft counts.