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Top Seattle ICE official charged with stealing immigrants' identities

| Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, 8:42 p.m.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enter an apartment complex looking for a specific undocumented immigrant convicted of a felony during an early morning operation in Dallas.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enter an apartment complex looking for a specific undocumented immigrant convicted of a felony during an early morning operation in Dallas.

The top attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle is accused of stealing immigrants' identities in an attempt to defraud several credit card companies.

Raphael A. Sanchez, ICE's chief counsel in the city, was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, according to a charging document filed this week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

The charges, both felonies, were first reported Tuesday by the Associated Press, which also reported that Sanchez had resigned from ICE effective Monday.

A defense attorney for Sanchez did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. A spokeswoman for ICE's Seattle field office referred questions to the Department of Justice, where no one was immediately available to discuss the case.

The charging document states that between October 2013 and October 2017 Sanchez used the personal information of seven immigrants to try to defraud several financial institutions, including American Express, Citibank and Bank of America. The immigrants were all "in various stages of immigration proceedings," read the document signed by attorneys from Justice Department's Public Integrity Section.

The document, known as an information, offers few details about Sanchez's alleged offenses. But in one example, prosecutors alleged Sanchez stole the name, Social Security number and birth date of a Chinese national identified only as R.H.

The charges state that on April 18, 2016, Sanchez sent himself an email through his government account containing an image of a U.S. permanent resident card and the biographical page of a Chinese passport issued to R.H. The email also allegedly contained a Puget Sound Energy bill in R.H.'s name for service at an address in a southern Seattle neighborhood with a large Asian population.

Property records list Raphael A. Sanchez as the owner of the address cited in the information.

Sanchez is scheduled to appear in court for a plea hearing Thursday morning, according to the court calendar. The filing of an information typically signals that a defendant has waived indictment by a grand jury and intends to work out a plea agreement with prosecutors.

As chief counsel, Sanchez in negotiated a $2.25 million civil settlement in 2015 with a Washington apple orchard owner that was accused of hiring more than 900 employees who were not authorized to work in the United States.

ICE agents in Washingon have played an active role in President Trump's immigration crackdown. They arrested dozens of undocumented immigrants in September's "Operation Safe City" operation, a four-day effort in which the administration targeted so-called sanctuary cities around the country, including Seattle, where local officials do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

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