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Ex-ICE chief counsel sentenced for stealing undocumented immigrants' identities

The former top attorney with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been sentenced to four years behind bars for stealing undocumented immigrants' identities, according to the Justice Department. Former ICE Chief Counsel Raphael A. Sanchez, of Seattle, Washington, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. 

The DOJ says 44-year-old Sanchez who was responsible for immigration removal proceedings in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, admitted in a plea agreement that he "intentionally devised a scheme to defraud aliens in various stages of immigration removal proceedings with ICE." Using personally identifiable information of the victims from ICE's official computer databases and hard-copy immigration files, Sanchez admitted that he forged identification documents like Social Security Cards and driver's licenses in the victim's names, according to DOJ. He used those documents, the Justice Department says, to open lines of credit and personal loans in their names, manipulate credit bureau files, and then transfer funds to himself.

Sanchez, according to the DOJ, made charges or drew payments of more than $190,000, using PayPal, Amazon, Square, Venmo and other methods to process those transactions. He will have to repay those funds. Sanchez, according to the Justice Department, also claimed three immigrants as relative dependents on his tax returns in 2014, 2015 and 2016. 

"Raphael Sanchez was entrusted with overseeing the honest enforcement of our country's immigration laws," said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan said in a statement. "Instead, Sanchez abused that trust, and capitalized on his position at ICE to exploit his victims and line his own pockets."

According to the Washington Post, Sanchez worked for ICE for 17 years. Court documents say that Sanchez is a first-time offender.

The sentencing comes as tensions over the Trump administration's approach to immigration are high, and as some Democrats call for ICE to be abolished altogether. The Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" approach to immigration that led to family separations earned intense criticism, forcing President Trump to sign an executive order to unite families. On Thursday, U.S. Capitol Police charged nearly 600 people protesting Mr. Trump's immigration policies. And a handful of Democrats, including Democratic nominee for Congress in New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York have suggested ICE be abolished.