Criminal Justice

Top attorney for ICE Seattle office charged with stealing immigrants' identities

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The chief counsel for the Seattle office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement was charged Monday with stealing the identities of seven people who had come through his office, the Associated Press and Washington Post have reported.

Raphael A. Sanchez is accused of using the identities to try to open new credit cards with major lenders under the immigrants’ names. Sanchez resigned effective Feb. 12, the day the information—a federal charging document—was filed in the Western District of Washington. The Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section has charged Sanchez with one count each of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Neither an attorney for Sanchez nor the Department of Justice had a comment immediately. But the charging document in the case says Sanchez emailed himself identifying information from seven immigrants “in various stages of immigration proceedings” before ICE, and then tried to open credit cards in those people’s names. In one case, Sanchez sent an energy bill, Chinese passport and U.S. permanent resident card from his ICE email account to a personal Yahoo email account.

The Associated Press notes that the filing of an information suggests that a plea deal is in the works; it’s only filed when the defendant has waived the right to a grand jury. The court calendar shows that Sanchez is scheduled to enter a plea on Thursday, Feb. 15.

The Post says ICE’s Seattle office has actively participated in federal efforts to increase immigration enforcement. That includes participation in “Operation Safe City,” an effort in September to make arrests in “sanctuary cities” that have a policy against cooperating with ICE.

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