MOTHER AND DAUGHTER IDENTITY THIEVES SENTENCED TO PRISON
Mother, Daughter and Son Used False Identities to Buy Cars, Homes, and Get Tax Refunds
MILDREADA RUIZ RAPA, 46, formerly of Vancouver, Washington, and her daughter, MELANIE ANDREWS, 24, also formerly from Vancouver, were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for a wide range of identity theft related charges including Fraudulent Use of Social Security numbers, real estate fraud, false statements to HUD, and income tax fraud. U.S. District Court Judge Franklin D. Burgess sentenced RUIZ RAPA to 8 years in prison and 3 years of supervised release. ANDREWS was sentenced to 15 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release. In October 2005, MICHAEL ANDREWS, RUIZ RAPA's son, was sentenced to18 months in prison and $243,224 in restitution after pleading guilty to related identity theft charges. RUIZ RAPA was ordered to make restitution of about $550,000 and ANDREWS was ordered to pay restitution of $60,000.
The case began in September 2003, when the defendants used a series of phony identities to obtain car loans in Vancouver, Washington. The defendants were arrested by Vancouver Police and posted bond to get out of jail. They fled, and the bond, which was secured by a parcel of real estate, was fraudulent. The investigation that followed ultimately revealed a wide ranging scheme.
According to court records, the original automobile purchases and car loans were made in a series of fictitious identities each defendant had crafted over time. The false identities were bolstered by Washington Drivers licenses, Social Security cards, credit cards and other items. The credit histories, assets and income on the loan paperwork were also fictitious. The same false identities were then used by the defendants to purchase seven residential properties in the Vancouver and Portland area. The homes and corresponding bank loans ranged from $180,000 to $450,000, and totaled about $2 million. In each instance the defendants created entirely fictitious histories, accompanied by false asset and income information, even accompanied by false IRS form W-2s. The documents were all crafted to trick the lenders. The real estate purchases were timed to close on almost simultaneous dates so the banks’ underwriting procedures wouldn't disclose the other loans. No payments were ever made on the loans. When the defendants fled the lenders were forced to foreclose on the properties causing a net loss to the banks of over $500,000.
Once in possession of the different properties, the defendants used them as adult foster care facilities and collected rents from occupants. Those rents were substantial, and provided defendants a steady income.
While residing in Vancouver, the defendants were affiliated with the Jehovah's Witness Church. Through her contacts with church members, MILDREADA RUIZ RAPA ran an income tax preparation service that was similarly fraudulent. She prepared and submitted IRS Form 1040s in her own false identities and in the false identities of her children, for which she received fraudulent refunds. On returns for her tax preparation for clients, RAPA altered their IRS Form W-2s to increase their income, without their knowledge, arranged for the inflated refunds to be paid to her own accounts, and then either kept the entire refund or kept the inflated amount and paid the remainder to her client. RAPA received in excess of $60,000 in fraudulent IRS refunds.
After the defendants fled Clark County in 2003, they assumed new identities and remained fugitives until about December 2004, when they were arrested by authorities in Arizona. MILDREADA RUIZ RAPA and MELANIE ANDREWS had assumed new identities and were impersonating nurses while working at a renal dialysis clinic. They were caught gathering personal information from patients in need of kidney transplants to create new identities for further frauds. Both were prosecuted in Arizona. RAPA was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ANDREWS to 18 months in prison. They were then returned to the Western District of Washington to answer these federal charges. After disposition of this matter, Canadian authorities have indicated their intention to seek extradition of MILDREADA RUIZ RAPA for an arrest warrant resulting from a credit card fraud scheme some years ago in Canada.
In asking for significant prison time, Assistant United States Attorney Kurt Hermanns noted that RUIZ RAPA “distinguished herself as the ‘Grand Dame’ of identity thieves ...She directed the actions of her children, recruiting them into her criminal schemes and teaching them a lifestyle of deceit at a very young age.” Judge Burgess agreed saying, “Ms. Ruiz Rapa has committed fraud her entire adult life and used her children to further her schemes and stops only when she is in prison.”
The case was investigated by the Vancouver Police Department, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and the Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kurt Hermanns and Sarah Vogel.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington, at (206)553-4110.