Seattle ICE lawyer charged with stealing immigrants' identities

(Reuters) – The chief counsel for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Seattle will appear in federal court on Thursday to face charges that he stole the identities of immigrants to defraud banks.

Raphael A. Sanchez is accused of devising a scheme to obtain money and property by using the identities of “seven aliens in various stages of immigration proceedings” with ICE over a period of four years to defraud American Express Corp, Bank of America Corp and others, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Sanchez, who is due to make an initial court appearance Thursday morning, is charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, court documents show.

He has resigned from the agency, his lawyer, Cassandra Stamm, said on Wednesday.

The offenses allegedly took place between October 2013 and October 2017, and included an instance of forwarding a copy of part of a Chinese passport and other information from his government email address, according to court documents.

The investigation involved ICE’s internal affairs division, according to an ICE official, who referred questions to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Justice Department, whose Public Integrity Section brought the charges, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As chief counsel, Sanchez was involved in a $2.25 million government settlement in 2015 with Broetje Orchards, a Washington state company that admitted to employing unauthorized workers after being told by ICE they did not have permission to work in the United States.

Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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