A Domini­can nation­al was sen­tenced Fri­day to serve 42 months in prison for her role in traf­fick­ing the iden­ti­ties of Puer­to Rican U.S. cit­i­zens and cor­re­spond­ing iden­ti­ty doc­u­ments, announced the Jus­tice Department’s Crim­i­nal Divi­sion; U.S. Attor­ney of the Dis­trict of Puer­to Rico; U.S. Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment (ICE); U.S. Postal Inspec­tion Ser­vice (USPIS); the U.S. State Department’s Diplo­mat­ic Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice (DSS); and Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice-Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion (IRS-CI).

Arelis Abreu-Ramos, for­mer­ly of Philadel­phia, was sen­tenced by U.S. Dis­trict Judge Gus­ta­vo A. Gelpí in the Dis­trict of Puer­to Rico. In addi­tion to Abreu-Ramos’s prison term, Judge Gelpí ordered her removal from the Unit­ed States to the Domini­can Repub­lic after the com­ple­tion of her sen­tence.   On June 13, 2013, Abreu-Ramos plead­ed guilty in Puer­to Rico to one count of con­spir­a­cy to com­mit iden­ti­fi­ca­tion fraud and one count of con­spir­a­cy to com­mit human smug­gling for finan­cial gain. Abreu-Ramos was charged in a super­sed­ing indict­ment returned by a fed­er­al grand jury in Puer­to Rico on March 22, 2012. To date, a total of 53 indi­vid­u­als have been charged for their roles in the iden­ti­ty traf­fick­ing scheme, and 42 defen­dants have plead­ed guilty.

Court doc­u­ments allege that indi­vid­u­als locat­ed in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puer­to Rico (Savarona sup­pli­ers), obtained Puer­to Rican iden­ti­ties and cor­re­spond­ing iden­ti­ty doc­u­ments. Oth­er con­spir­a­tors locat­ed in var­i­ous cities through­out the Unit­ed States (iden­ti­ty bro­kers) alleged­ly solicit­ed cus­tomers and sold Social Secu­ri­ty cards and cor­re­spond­ing Puer­to Rico birth cer­tifi­cates for prices rang­ing from $700 to $2,500 per set.   The super­sed­ing indict­ment alleges that iden­ti­ty bro­kers ordered the iden­ti­ty doc­u­ments from the Savarona sup­pli­ers, on behalf of the cus­tomers, by mak­ing cod­ed tele­phone calls. The con­spir­a­tors are charged with using text mes­sages, mon­ey trans­fer ser­vices, and express, pri­or­i­ty or reg­u­lar U.S. mail to com­plete their illic­it trans­ac­tions.  Court doc­u­ments allege that some of the con­spir­a­tors assumed a Puer­to Rican iden­ti­ty them­selves and used that iden­ti­ty in con­nec­tion with the traf­fick­ing operation.

Their cus­tomers gen­er­al­ly obtained the iden­ti­ty doc­u­ments to assume the iden­ti­ty of Puer­to Rican U.S. cit­i­zens and to obtain addi­tion­al iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments, such as legit­i­mate state driver’s licens­es. Some cus­tomers alleged­ly obtained the doc­u­ments to com­mit finan­cial fraud and attempt­ed to obtain a U.S. pass­port.   Abreu-Ramos admit­ted that she oper­at­ed as an iden­ti­ty bro­ker in the Philadel­phia area, and that she was a man­ag­er and super­vi­sor in the con­spir­a­cy. Accord­ing to court doc­u­ments, in June 2011, an unau­tho­rized alien in Arling­ton, Va., applied for a U.S. pass­port using legit­i­mate Puer­to Rico iden­ti­ty doc­u­ments that had been sup­plied by Abreu-Ramos. Law enforce­ment agents uncov­ered the fraud­u­lent appli­ca­tion and pre­vent­ed the issuance of the U.S. passport.

Abreu-Ramos is the 29th defen­dant to be sen­tenced in this case.