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Very Real

ICE Lawyer Stole Immigrant's Identities To Commit Fraud

His lawyer blamed his childhood.

By Gina Tron

A former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or ICE) lawyer in Seattle will be sentenced Thursday for stealing immigrants' identities to defraud banks and credit card companies.

Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys have recommended that Raphael Sanchez, 44, spend four years behind bars. Sanchez worked as chief attorney for ICE in Seattle, all while taking advantage of immigrants. His job was to oversee immigration removal cases in several states including Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Sanchez “abused his position of public trust to prey on our nation’s immigrants,” according to a sentencing memo filed by lawyers from the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section

Sanchez even falsely claimed "three aliens as relative dependents on his tax returns for 2014 through 2016,” the Justice Department said. Prosecutors say he frauded $190,000 from at least six financial institutions. He obtained information of the victims using ICE’s official computer database systems and by accessing their official files. Then forged identification documents on his work computer including social security cards and driver’s licenses, in the victims’ names.  Sanchez used the forged documents to open credit card and bank accounts in the names of aliens, which he controlled.  

In February, Sanchez pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, the Seattle Times reported. The wire fraud charge could carry a sentence of up to 30 years, while aggravated identity theft comes with a mandatory two-year sentence.

Sanchez made a plea agreement in which it is expected he’ll only be given four years. Days before his plea deal, he resigned from his role as chief counsel.

“It is the duty of our federal immigration authorities to ensure the honest enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan said in a statement in February.  “Raphael Sanchez betrayed that solemn responsibility and abused his official position to prey upon aliens for his own personal gain.”

Sanchez’ defense attorney Cassandra Stamm blamed her client’s childhood for his actions. As a kid, he and his mother were beaten by Sanchez’ alcoholic father, Stamm said. She said he never acquired tools to cope with the psychological deficits of his past.

“Like all men, Raphael Sanchez is far more than this, the worst thing he has ever done,” Stamm wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

[Photo: Getty Images]