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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

How an ICE attorney stole immigrant IDs, for years

Raphael Sanchez is seen in U.S. District Court in Seattle in this artist's sketch.
Sketch by Peter Millett
Raphael Sanchez is seen in U.S. District Court in Seattle in this artist's sketch.

People who’ve worked with Raphael Sanchez say they’re shocked to see the complex fraud he carried out for more than four years, for his own personal gain.

Sanchez, 44, resigned Monday as chief counsel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle. He pleaded guilty Thursdayto wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

In his position, Sanchez oversaw a team of roughly 12 lawyers who prosecuted deportation cases in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. (One of his senior lawyers also pleaded guilty to evidence forgery in 2016.)

During these prosecutions, government lawyers often point out how unauthorized immigrants use fake social security numbers to get jobs.

Court filings show how Sanchez cooked up a far more destructive scheme in which he stole the personal information of numerous people facing immigration charges, then racked up credit and bank charges in their name totaling more than $190,000.

A few shocking details of the crime

Here are a few excerpts from DOJ’s “Factual Statement of Plea”, setting forth the facts in the case. Sanchez admits these facts are true. (Some language has been altered for clarity and less legalese.)

"Sanchez used credit monitoring services to track victims’ credit scores to ascertain which person has the most available credit."


[asset-images[{"caption": "ICE attorney Raphael Sanchez listed his home address as the aliens' residences on account paperwork. Sanchez's home at 3516 S. Webster Street #A is shown here on Thursday, February 15, 2018, in Seattle.", "fid": "142720", "style": "card_280", "uri": "public://201802/MF_ICE01_0_0.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW/Megan Farmer"}]]

"Sanchez used ICE computer databases to obtain personally identifiable information to forge identification documents on his work computer, such as Social Security cards and Washington State Drivers’ Licenses. For female identities, Sanchez used the photograph of a female murder victim published in a newspaper."

"Sanchez admits these victims were vulnerable due to their immigration status...or due to their status of being deported."

"As part of the scheme to defraud, Chief Counsel Sanchez claimed three victims as relative dependents on his tax returns for 2014 through 2016."

ICE has identified the personal information of approximately twenty more potential victims (in addition to the initial seven) whose personal information were in Sanchez’s possession at his residence.

You can read details of what federal investigators say Sanchez did in the court document below.

Year started with KUOW: 2006