Jose Sergio Garcia-Ramirez, 37, formerly of Rockford, Ill., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí, in the District of Puerto Rico. Judge Gelpí also ordered that Garcia-Ramirez forfeit $35,900 in proceeds and ordered the removal of Garcia-Ramirez from the United States after the completion of his sentence.
On July 17, 2012, Garcia-Ramirez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce J. McGiverin in the District of Puerto Rico.
Garcia-Ramirez was charged in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico on Mar. 22, 2012. To date, a total of 53 individuals have been charged for their roles in the identity trafficking scheme, and 18 defendants have pleaded guilty.
Court documents allege that individuals located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico (Savarona suppliers), obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Other conspirators located in various cities throughout the United States (identity brokers) allegedly solicited customers and sold Social Security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set. The superseding indictment alleges that identity brokers ordered the identity documents from Savarona suppliers, on behalf of the customers, by making coded telephone calls. The conspirators are charged with using text messages, money transfer services and express, priority or regular U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.
Court documents allege that some identity brokers assumed a Puerto Rican identity themselves and used that identity in connection with the trafficking operation. Their customers allegedly generally obtained the identity documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and to obtain additional identification documents, such as legitimate state driver’s licenses. Some customers allegedly obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport.
According to court documents, various identity brokers were operating in Rockford, Ill.; DeKalb, Ill.; Aurora, Ill.; Seymour, Ind.; Columbus, Ind.; Indianapolis; Hartford, Conn.; Clewiston, Fla.; Lilburn, Ga.; Norcross, Ga.; Salisbury, Md.; Columbus, Ohio; Fairfield, Ohio; Dorchester, Mass.; Lawrence, Mass.; Salem, Mass.; Worcester, Mass.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Nebraska City, Neb.; Elizabeth, N.J.; Burlington, N.C.; Hickory, N.C.; Hazelton, Pa.; Philadelphia; Houston; Abingdon, Va.; Albertville, Ala.; and Providence, R.I.
Garcia-Ramirez admitted that he was an identity broker in the conspiracy and operated in Illinois. Garcia-Ramirez is the fourth defendant to be sentenced in this case.
The charges are the result of Operation Island Express, an ongoing, nationally-coordinated investigation led by the ICE-HSI Chicago Office and USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices in Chicago, in coordination with the ICE-HSI San Juan Office. The Illinois Secretary of State Police; Elgin, Ill., Police Department; Seymour, Ind., Police Department; and Indiana State Police provided substantial assistance. The ICE-HSI Assistant Attaché office in the Dominican Republic and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2) as well as various ICE, USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices around the country provided invaluable assistance.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys James S. Yoon, Hope S. Olds, Courtney B. Schaefer and Christina Giffin of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, with the assistance of Acting Deputy Chief Jeannette Gunderson of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and the support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Northern District of Illinois, Southern District of Indiana, District of Connecticut, District of Massachusetts, District of Nebraska, Middle District of North Carolina, Southern District of Ohio and Western District of Virginia provided substantial assistance.