Photo: Immigration Identity Fraud
Fifty individuals were charged in an indictment unsealed today in Puerto Rico with conspiracy to commit identification fraud in connection with their alleged roles in a scheme to traffic the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents. The charges are the result of an extensive investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in partnership with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
The one-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury on Dec. 29, 2011, and unsealed today. Defendants were arrested yesterday in multiple districts throughout the United States and Puerto Rico and will make initial appearances in federal court in the districts in which they were arrested. In addition, law enforcement agents executed searches as part of an ongoing investigation.
According to the indictment, from at least April 2009 to December 2011, conspirators in 15 states and Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, trafficked the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens, corresponding Social Security cards, Puerto Rico birth certificates and other identification documents to undocumented aliens and others residing in the United States.
The indictment alleges that conspirators located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico (Savarona suppliers) obtained the Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Conspirators in various locations throughout the United States (identity brokers) solicited customers. The identity brokers allegedly sold Social Security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set. The indictment alleges that identity brokers ordered the identity documents from Savarona suppliers, on behalf of the customers, by making coded telephone calls, including using terms such as “shirts,” “uniforms” or “clothes,” to refer to identity documents. Specifically, the brokers asked for “skirts” for female customers and “pants” for male customers in various “sizes,” which referred to the ages of the identities sought by the customers.
According to the indictment, once the identity brokers received the identity documents, they delivered the documents to the customers and obtained second payments. The brokers generally kept the second payments for themselves as profit. Some identity brokers allegedly assumed a Puerto Rican identity themselves, and used that identity in connection with the trafficking operation.
As alleged in the indictment, the 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.