Photo: U.S. Passport
A Dominican national was sentenced Friday to serve 42 months in prison for her role in trafficking the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents, announced the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney of the District of Puerto Rico; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS); and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
Arelis Abreu-Ramos, formerly of Philadelphia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí in the District of Puerto Rico. In addition to Abreu-Ramos’s prison term, Judge Gelpí ordered her removal from the United States to the Dominican Republic after the completion of her sentence.
On June 13, 2013, Abreu-Ramos pleaded guilty in Puerto Rico to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit human smuggling for financial gain.
Abreu-Ramos was charged in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico on March 22, 2012. To date, a total of 53 individuals have been charged for their roles in the identity trafficking scheme, and 42 defendants have pleaded guilty.
Court documents allege that individuals located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico (Savarona suppliers), obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Other conspirators located in various cities throughout the United States (identity brokers) allegedly solicited customers and sold Social Security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set.
The superseding indictment alleges that identity brokers ordered the identity documents from the Savarona suppliers, on behalf of the customers, by making coded telephone calls. The conspirators are charged with using text messages, money transfer services, and express, priority or regular U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.
Court documents allege that some of the conspirators assumed a Puerto Rican identity themselves and used that identity in connection with the trafficking operation.
Their customers 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 allegedly obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport.
Abreu-Ramos admitted that she operated as an identity broker in the Philadelphia area, and that she was a manager and supervisor in the conspiracy. According to court documents, in June 2011, an unauthorized alien in Arlington, Va., applied for a U.S. passport using legitimate Puerto Rico identity documents that had been supplied by Abreu-Ramos. Law enforcement agents uncovered the fraudulent application and prevented the issuance of the U.S. passport.
Abreu-Ramos is the 29th defendant to be sentenced in this case.