Defendant Sentenced for his Role in $25 Million Tax Fraud and Drug Conspiracy
Anchorage, Alaska – Acting U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis announced today that Samuel Peguero, aka “Niño”, a citizen of the Dominican Republic residing in Alaska, was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment, followed by one year of supervised release, for his role in a $25 million tax fraud and drug conspiracy. In addition to his prison sentence, Peguero was ordered to pay restitution of $19,090.92. Peguero pled guilty to conspiracy to six counts of aiding and abetting false claims of United States citizenship on October 10, 2014.
According to court documents, from 2008 through 2012, Peguero participated in an extensive criminal enterprise led by Joel Santana-Pierna. Joel Santana-Pierna together with his brother Abel Santana-Pierna conspired with others in an effort to import over two kilograms of cocaine into Alaska for distribution. In addition to their cocaine smuggling scheme, the organization conspired to use stolen Puerto Rican identities to file false income tax returns to obtain fraudulent income tax refunds.
Conspirators in the income tax fraud scheme obtained the stolen identities of more than 3,000 individuals, including people’s names and Social Security Numbers. Most of these stolen identities were from citizens of Puerto Rico. The conspirators also stole mail in and around the Anchorage area. The conspirators stored the stolen identities and addresses on laptop computers and paper lists. Using this stolen information, the brothers completed false returns and submitted them to the IRS. Altogether, the United States estimates that the total loss intended by members of the conspiracy exceeded $25 million.
Peguero acted as an interpreter for the conspirators. Peguero aided the Santana-Pierna brothers to submit false applications with the Alaska DMV to obtain fraudulent identification documents. He also helped the conspirators negotiate U.S. Treasury checks at local banks, knowing that the checks bore the forged endorsements of the conspirators.
“This conspiracy to defraud the United States government is the largest in Alaska state history,” according to Special Agent in Charge Teri Alexander of IRS Criminal Investigation. “While Peguero may have played a small role in a big picture, this sentencing today is a stark warning to anyone that would endeavor to provide aid and assistance to criminals.”
“Tax fraud and identity theft are serious crimes that cheat us all. Anyone who commits the crimes, or helps others to commit the crimes, should expect to be arrested and sent to jail,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis.
Misael Polanco-Villa, Nicolas Jimenez-Sanchez, Isaac Amparo-Vazquez, Randin Paredes Henriquez, John Doe, a/k/a Japhet Soto Santiago, a/k/a Luis Angel, Wedys Ramirez-Javier, Fatima Aguilar Martinez, Melissa Duran-Muniz, and Hilda Josephine Hernandez McMullen were also indicted as conspirators in Joel Santana-Pierna’s scheme.The case was jointly prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas C. Bradley, James Barkeley, and Stephanie C. Courter of the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska. The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Additional assistance was provided by the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of New Jersey, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the Southern District of New York.