SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A Dominican Republic national was sentenced on Monday for his role in trafficking the identities and corresponding identity documents of Puerto Rican US citizens.
Jorge Luis “Daniel” Mendez, 38, a Dominican Republic national formerly of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was sentenced to serve 75 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to forfeit $422,793 in illegal proceeds by US District Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez in the District of Puerto Rico. The defendant is illegally within the United States and the government will seek his deportation following the service of his prison sentence.
On December 3, 2013, Mendez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit human smuggling for financial gain and three counts of aggravated identity theft. To date, 53 individuals have been charged for their roles in the identity trafficking scheme. All 49 arrested defendants have pleaded guilty and 45 defendants have been sentenced.
According to court documents, individuals located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico, obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Other conspirators located in various cities throughout the United States solicited customers and sold Social Security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set. The identity brokers in the United States ordered the identity documents from the document suppliers in Savarona on behalf of their customers by making coded telephone calls. The conspirators were charged with using text messages, money transfer services and express, priority or regular US mail to complete their illicit transactions.
The court documents indicate that some of the conspirators assumed a Puerto Rican identity themselves and used that identity in connection with the trafficking operation. Their customers generally obtained the identity documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican US citizens and to obtain additional identification documents, such as legitimate state driver’s licenses. Some customers obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a US passport.
Mendez was a supplier of Puerto Rican identity documents who operated in San Juan and provided Puerto Rican identities to brokers in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, knowing that the identities would be sold to undocumented aliens who would then pose as US citizens. Court documents show that Mendez was a manager and supervisor in the conspiracy.
The charges are the result of Operation Island Express, an ongoing, nationally coordinated investigation.