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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Leader Of Identity Theft Conspiracy Sentenced

The conspirators helped illegal aliens obtain Michigan driver’s licenses. These aliens had criminal convictions that previously led to their removal to the Dominican Republic.

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Michelle Martinez-Marte, 37, of Rhode Island, was sentenced to 4 years in federal prison, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today. Martinez- Marte previously pled guilty in the Western District of Michigan to charges returned by grand juries in both Michigan and Massachusetts related to her involvement in a conspiracy to assist illegal aliens from the Dominican Republic with obtaining driver’s licenses using the identities of others. In sentencing Martinez-Marte, Chief U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker commented that Martinez-Marte was at the center of a very significant conspiracy that assisted others with prior criminal records in residing illegally in the United States.

         U.S. Attorney Birge added that, "The use of someone else’s identity is a very serious crime. This conspiracy was particularly brazen because defendants assisted many individuals previously removed from our country after criminal convictions – including drug-trafficking crimes – in establishing new identities through Michigan driver’s licenses so that they could again live in our country undetected by immigration authorities. My office will continue to vigorously prosecute those who enter this country illegally and steal the identities of innocent citizens."

          Between at least April 4, 2016, and July 20, 2017, Martinez-Marte conspired with Eddie Michael Balderramas of Kalamazoo, Michigan, to commit identity theft and social security account number fraud. Martinez-Marte, a citizen of the Dominican Republic illegally residing in Rhode Island, assisted other illegal aliens from the Dominican Republic in acquiring counterfeit Puerto Rican birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and social security account number cards in the names of actual individuals. Martinez-Marte would then refer the illegal aliens to Eddie Balderramas. Eddie Balderramas would travel to New York City and transport the illegal aliens to Michigan, where they would be harbored at a home in Kalamazoo. Eddie Balderramas produced false leases, paystubs, and other documents to make it appear as if the illegal aliens were truly Michigan residents. Eddie Balderramas would then transport the illegal aliens to Michigan Secretary of State Offices and would use the counterfeit Puerto Rican and Michigan residency documents to acquire authentic Michigan driver’s licenses for these illegal aliens using the name, social security account number, and other personal identifiers of actual individuals. The illegal aliens paid Eddie Balderramas for their assistance so that they could live in the country without detection by immigration authorities, as many were previously removed from the United States in their real names after sustaining criminal convictions.

          "Sadly, the long-term outcome of identity-theft crimes act as an almost permanent destabilizing force on the lives and livelihoods of the victims. These crimes often impact the victims’ ability to obtain lines of credit and current or future job prospects, among other things," said Steve Francis, Homeland Security Investigations Detroit special agent in charge. "This case demonstrates HSI’s unwavering commitment to see that perpetrators of identity crimes are brought to justice."

         Martinez-Marte is the latest of five individuals sentenced for their roles in the conspiracy. Previously sentenced were:

• Eddie Michael Balderramas, 51, Kalamazoo, Michigan, leader of conspiracy (4 years’ imprisonment)

• Michael James Balderramas, 28, Kalamazoo, Michigan, son of Eddie Michael Balderramas and member of conspiracy (3 years’ probation)

• Freddy Medina, 39, Dominican Republic, illegal alien who obtained Michigan driver’s license through fraud (1 year imprisonment, followed by deportation)

• Victor Manuel Calderon-Rodriguez, illegal alien who obtained Michigan driver’s license through fraud (imprisonment of 12 months and 1 day, followed by deportation)

          Others currently convicted and awaiting sentencing include:

• Malkin Arialdys Villar-Medrano, 45, Dominican Republic, illegal alien who obtained Michigan driver’s license through fraud (sentencing March 14, 2019, Grand Rapids)

• Julio Francisco Troncoso-Marinez, 37, Dominican Republic, illegal alien who obtained Michigan driver’s license through fraud (sentencing March 11, 2019, Grand Rapids)

• Juan Manuel Pena-Zapata, 39, Dominican Republic, illegal alien who obtained Michigan driver’s license through fraud (sentencing February 19, 2019, District of Rhode Island)

           This prosecution was the result of a cooperative effort between local, State, and Federal law enforcement in Michigan and Massachusetts. The Michigan State Police worked closely with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office upon receiving information from Boston police that individuals arrested on drug-trafficking charges possessed Michigan driver’s licenses with common addresses in Kalamazoo. Those offices then assisted the federal investigation, which was handled by the Grand Rapids offices of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Stella handled the prosecution with cooperation and important assistance from the United States Attorney’s Office in Boston.

END

Topic(s): 
Immigration
Updated February 19, 2019