U.S. District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpi of the District of Puerto Rico sentenced Rafael Joaquin Beltre-Beltre to 63 months in prison for his involvement in an identity theft ring that includes at least 53 co-conspirators. Beltre-Beltre had faced up to 15 years for identification fraud, 10 years for alien smuggling for financial gain, and 20 years for international money laundering, but was sentenced to a reduced term of imprisonment after pleading guilty to one count of each charge. As an immigration attorney in Texas, I applaud the actions of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Judicial System in taking swift and appropriate action.
Rafael Joaquin Beltre-Beltre was a 36 year old Dominican national who assisted undocumented aliens in gaining entry to the United States by providing the identities of real Puerto Rican citizens. In exchange for financial compensation, Beltre-Beltre produced identification documents of adult and minor Puerto Rican U.S. citizens. For amounts ranging from $700 up to $2,500, Beltre-Beltre provided Social Security cards and Puerto Rican birth certificates.
Beltre-Beltre confessed to providing identities of living U.S. citizens that he knew would be used for fraudulent acquisition of U.S. passports as well as tax fraud. One such attempt to apply for a passport was recognized as fraudulent and denied by U.S. Immigration officers.
When he was arrested on January 11, 2012, Beltre-Beltre was in possession of at least a hundred identification documents of living Puerto Ricans. He also had a firearm and four blank birth certificates. He was arrested as a result of Operation Island Express, a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement operation that sought to uncover identity trafficking networks.
The co-conspirators were found throughout the United States and, in some cases, had donned fraudulent identities themselves. Some of the network associates would collect personal information from authentic U.S. citizens residing in Savarona, Puerto Rico and then pass them on to their associates located throughout the continental United States. Using coded telephone calls, text messages, money transfers and the U.S. Postal Service, funds were exchanged for fraudulent identity documents. Of the 53 suspects charged so far, 25 have since pleaded guilty. Customers of this ring used fake documents to obtain other identification documents like a state driver’s license.
Rafael Joaquin Beltre-Beltre admitted to being the network’s organizer and leader. In addition to his prison sentence, Beltre-Beltre agreed to surrender $442,793 in funds he received during the course of his criminal activity. The defendant also agreed to deportation back to the Dominican Republic after his time had been served.
As an immigration attorney with years of experience handling cases, I recognize the immense damage that these criminal actions can cause. Not only do the immigrants themselves put themselves at risk for immediate deportation, but the victim whose identity has been stolen may require years of effort to clear their names.
If you or someone you know has questions or concerns about this or related issues, please contact my office at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a private, confidential meeting.