Two individuals each pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit human smuggling for financial gain in relation to their respective roles in trafficking the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico, Director Sarah R. Saldaña of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Director Bill A. Miller of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and Chief Richard Weber of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
Francisco Matos-Beltre, 42, a U.S. citizen formerly of Philadelphia, and Alejandro Tello-Rojas, aka Joel Ocasio-Cancel, aka William Davila, 36, a Mexican citizen formerly of Lawrenceville, Georgia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Juan M. Perez-Gimenez of the District of Puerto Rico. On Aug. 6, 2015, Matos-Beltre, an identity document supplier, and Tello-Rojas, an identity document broker, were charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico. To date, 14 individuals have been charged for their roles in the identity trafficking scheme, eight defendants have pleaded guilty and six individuals remain fugitives.
According to admissions made in connection with today’s pleas, identity document runners located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico, obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Other conspirators, identified as identity document suppliers and brokers, were located in various cities throughout the United States and allegedly solicited customers for the sale of social security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set, the defendants admitted. The defendants acknowledged that the conspirators used text messages, money transfer services and U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.
The defendants also admitted that they sold Puerto Rican identity documents to customers, who 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 obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport, according to the plea agreements. At the time of his arrest, Tello-Rojas had assumed the identity of Ocasio-Cancel, a Puerto Rican U.S. citizen.
The Chicago offices of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI led the investigation, dubbed Operation Island Express II, with assistance from the HSI San Juan Office and the DSS Resident Office in Puerto Rico. The HSI Assistant Attaché office in the Dominican Republic and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center provided invaluable support with assistance from ICE, USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices around the country.
Trial Attorneys Marianne Shelvey of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Frank Rangoussis of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section are prosecuting the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Puerto Rico is providing assistance in this matter.