The former chief attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle was sentenced to 4 years in federal prison on Thursday after he ran bank scams that included stealing the identities of people he was trying to deport and using the information to defraud banks and credit-card companies.
Defense attorneys for Raphael Sanchez, 44, agreed to a four-year sentence if Sanchez pleaded “guilty to charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft,” reported The Seattle Times.
If Sanchez had not agreed to the deal, then he was facing up to 30 years in prison. Sanchez was also ordered to pay $190,000 in restitution and agreed to give up his law license.
The Times describes how Sanchez cheated the immigrants and ran his scams:
Sanchez, who was in charge of providing counsel to ICE agents and responsible for removal and asylum hearings in four Western states, stole the identities of at least seven would-be immigrants and used them to create fake identification documents submitted to banks and credit-card companies to open accounts. Over several years—all while he was a lawyer for ICE and the Department of Homeland Security—he stole more than $190,000, according to the plea agreement and court documents.
Armed with the IDs, Sanchez would open bank accounts and obtain credit cards in the victims’ names, and stole from at least six financial institutions.
Sanchez also lied to the Internal Revenue Service and claimed three of his victims as dependents to obtain deductions.
The Justice Department said Sanchez “betrayed his position of public trust to prey on our nation’s immigrants and line his pockets with the credit of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Sanchez’s defense attorney, Cassandra Stamm, commented on her client, suggesting he’s not really a bad guy:
“Like all men, Raphael Sanchez is far more than this, the worst thing he has ever done.” also adding her client survived “to build a life that could be viewed, at least from the outside looking in, as privileged, stable and significant.”
Stamm also blamed Sanchez’s “brutal upbringing” with an abusive alcoholic father for his crimes as an adult attorney. “The ‘why’ is not avarice or cunning,” Stamm said. “It’s his horrible history.”
Department of Justice trial attorney Jessica Harvey had a different opinion, saying Sanchez’s actions were a “profane and profound violation of the trust of the American public, exploiting some of the most vulnerable people in society “to line his pockets.”