Top Seattle ICE attorney admits to defrauding immigrants

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Disgraced lawyer likely faces 4-year prison term for identity thefts


Updated 11:40 am, Thursday, February 15, 2018



Seattle’s leading U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorney admitted Thursday to using immigrants’ identities to open credit cards during a guilty plea to federal fraud charges.

ICE Chief Counsel Raphael Sanchez used the fraudulently obtained credit accounts to defraud the creditors. The scheme ran for four years before it was discovered last fall.

Sanchez stole the identities of seven people involved in immigration proceedings. Federal prosecutors say Sanchez used fraudulently obtained credit cards to steal from from American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Citibank, Discover and JPMorgan Chase.



Sanchez resigned Monday, the day he was charged. He served as chief counsel in the agency’s Seattle office.

In a statement following Thursday’s guilty plea, Sanchez’s defense attorney Cassandra Stamm described her client as “a good person who has made serious mistakes in violation of the law.”

“Mr. Sanchez looks forward to fully repaying all those affected by his crimes,” Stamm said. “In short, Mr. Sanchez does not offer excuses for his acts; rather, he simply provides his sincere and immense regret.”


Sanchez was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He pleaded guilty to both counts, and will likely face a four-year prison term.

“Raphael Sanchez betrayed that solemn responsibility and abused his official position to prey upon aliens for his own personal gain,” acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan said in a statement. “We should not let one bad actor detract from the dedicated work done by all ICE agents and attorneys to keep our neighborhoods safe, and ICE should be commended for quickly and fully investigating this matter and referring it to the Justice Department for prosecution.”

Sanchez made charges or drew payments totaling more than $190,000 in immigrants’ names, often using PayPal and mobile point of sale devices from Amazon, Square, Venmo and Coin to process fraudulent Internet transactions.Sanchez shopped online in the names of aliens and had them shipped to his residence. He also claimed three aliens as relative dependents on his tax returns for 2014 through 2016.

Investigators recovered an email sent from Sanchez’s Department of Homeland Security account in which he paid a Puget Sound Energy bill using information from a Chinese national’s United States permanent resident card.

“Sanchez devised and intended to devise a scheme … using the personally identifying information of seven aliens in various stages of immigration proceedings with the United States Immigrant and Customs Enforcement to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Luke Case and Jessica Harvey said in court papers.

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Investigators recovered an email sent from Sanchez’s Department of Homeland Security account in which he paid a Puget Sound Energy bill using information from a Chinese national’s United States permanent resident card.

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, called for Congress to strengthen oversight of the Homeland Security Department, which includes ICE. Jayapal argued the Homeland Security budget has “ballooned with billions of dollars and little oversight.”

“These actions by Sanchez are outrageous and alarming,” Jayapal said in a statement. “They continue a long line of reported ICE abuses reported by community members, attorneys and watchdog groups.  They all show the clear need for accountability and transparency at ICE.  …

“We cannot sit on the sidelines and allow this to continue.”

Prosecutors and Sanchez have agreed to recommend a four-year prison term to U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik, who is expected to sentence Sanchez later this year. Sanchez was jailed following Thursday’s hearing.

SeattlePI senior editor Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 or levipulkkinen@seattlepi.com. Follow Levi on Twitter at @levipulkFind more from Levi here on his author page.





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