Former top ICE attorney facing prison time for stealing identities of immigrants

Federal officials have recommended four years behind bars for the former chief attorney for Immigration Customs Enforcement in Seattle who confessed to stealing the identities of immigrants in a sophisticated years-long fraud scheme.

Raphael Sanchez “abused his position of public trust to prey our nation’s immigrants,” according to documents filed by lawyers from the Department of Justice's public Integrity Section ahead of his sentencing in U.S. District Court. The 44-year-old attorney in February pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and has been in custody since agreed to surrender his bar license.

As one of the bureau’s lead attorneys, Sanchez was charged with overseeing immigration proceedings in Alaska, Ohio, Oregon and Washington from October 2013 to October 2017. During that time he devised a plan to defraud seven people in different stages of immigration removal proceedings.

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“Over a period of years, he exploited numerous victim aliens, defrauded major financial institutions, and monetized his position of public trust.”

Using personal information he obtained through ICE’s official database, Sanchez created identification documents — including social security cards and Washington state driver’s licenses — in the names of his victims but would use his own photo, according to the Department of Justice Sentencing memo.

He used the phony ID to open lines of credit and bank accounts in the victims’ names and managed to steal more than $190,000 from at least six financial institutions.

Sanchez additionally lied to the IRS, claiming three of his victims were his dependents so that he could obtain deductions.

Meanwhile, many of his victims “left the United States unaware of the debts that Sanchez incurred in their names and that these substantial balances were due, owing, and growing,” according to the court documents.

His attorney, Cassandra Stamm, rejected the government’s description of Sanchez “as a cunning and devious man with an appetite for avarice who sold his principles for profit.”

In a sentencing memorandum, Stamm cited Sanchez’s “brutal upbringing,” adding that he “never acquired the tools necessary to surmount the crippling psychological deficits” he suffered after being brought up in a violent home where he and his siblings were routinely beat by their alcoholic father.

Federal officials on the other hand, said “there can be no doubt that he ultimately overcame those challenges to become a successful attorney employed by the federal government.”