Dominican National Sentenced To Federal Prison In Identity Theft Scheme
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rafael Lara-Mejia, a/k/a Gabriel Arenas, Martin Muniz Rosado, and Jeffrey Montanez Rivera, a Dominican national living in Providence, was sentenced today to 24 months in federal prison for his role in a scheme to steal and sell the identities and corresponding identity documents of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens, announced United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha.
In December 2012, Lara-Mejia pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence to one count each of conspiracy to commit identification fraud and conspiracy to encourage an alien to reside in the United States for financial gain. Lara-Mejia was among fifty individuals named in a federal indictment returned on December 29, 2011, in Puerto Rico.
The indictment alleges that conspirators located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico, illegally obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Conspirators in various locations throughout the United States (identity brokers) solicited customers, while identity brokers, like Lara-Mejia, sold Social Security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set.
The indictment alleges that the customers generally obtained the documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens in order to, among other things, 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.
Appearing before Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. on December 10, 2012, Lara-Mejia admitted to the court that beginning in at least April 2009 and continuing through January 2012, he and his co-conspirators sold personal identifying information, including names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens to between 25 and 99 undocumented aliens and others residing within the United States, including in Rhode Island. Lara-Mejia also admitted that he and his co-conspirators sold Puerto Rico government-issued issued birth certificates, Social Security cards, driver's licenses and voter registration cards belonging to Puerto Rican U.S. citizens.
Lara-Mejia has been detained since his arrest in Rhode Island on March 27, 2012. He faces deportation proceedings upon completion of his prison term.
The case was prosecuted by District of Rhode Island Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard B. Myrus, and Senior Trial Attorney James Yoon and Trial Attorney Sarah Chang of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
The matter was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. State Department, Diplomatic Security Service; and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.
Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of identity theft, or wants information about preventing identity theft, may obtain helpful information and complaint forms on various government websites including the Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Website, www.ftc.gov/idtheft. Additional resources regarding identity theft can be found at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/pubs/ID_theft/idtheft.html; http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.html ; http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber/identity_theft; and http://www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=186436,00.html.