Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ICE Arrest Two for Illegally Selling Valid Birth Certificates and Social Security Cards

Jose Antonio Torres, 31, and Sharon Aguayo Rivera, 37, were arrested yesterday in Puerto Rico. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) allege that two outstanding federal arrest warrants were issued by the District of Delaware for their alleged participation in a conspiracy to sell and transfer Puerto Rican birth certificates and Social Security cards via mail transfers to the state of Delaware.

These documents were ultimately used to satisfy documentary requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as it relates to employment. Moreover, once in receipt of these documents, individuals could fraudulently obtain all the rights and privileges of a U.S. citizen, including gaining employment, voting, purchasing firearms and obtaining valid passports to access U.S. borders.

These are the latest arrests associated with the ICE-led joint federal investigation that have netted dozens of arrests on sale and use of fraudulent documents. On November 6, 2007, a federal Grand Jury sitting in Wilmington, Delaware returned indictments charging Joan Santiago, of Blades, Delaware; Oscar Laines, of Selbyville, Delaware; and Hugo Lopez-Olguin, of Seaford, Delaware; each with identity theft and the unlawful transfer of Social Security cards and birth certificates. According to the indictments, these three defendants collectively bought and/or sold approximately 129 Social Security cards and birth certificates.

"Document fraud is an extremely lucrative form of white-collar crime that is complex and challenging to investigate, often involving sophisticated schemes and multiple co-conspirators that take years to investigate and prosecute," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, acting special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Puerto Rico. "We will continue using all our resources to shut down this vulnerability to our immigration system and our national security."

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