WASHINGTON – A foreign national pleaded guilty today for his role in a scheme to sell identity documents belonging to U.S. citizens to undocumented noncitizens and others residing within the United States without lawful authority.
According to court documents, Manuel Ruiz-Aguilera, 44, of Mexico, and his co-conspirators sold government-issued identity documents, including Government of Puerto Rico-issued birth certificates and corresponding U.S. social security cards, to undocumented noncitizens residing within the United States. Ruiz-Aguilera sold the documents to undocumented noncitizens so they could assume the identities of U.S. citizens, and/or fraudulently apply for other identity documents in that person’s name in order to reside in the United States. Ruiz-Aguilera and his co-conspirators knew these documents pertained to real people.
Ruiz-Aguilera was arrested in Mexico in February 2022 pursuant to a U.S. request for his extradition. In March 2023, he was extradited to Puerto Rico.
Ruiz-Aguilera pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud by possessing, producing, and transferring identification documents. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 29. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico, Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tae D. Johnson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Chief Postal Inspector Gary R. Barksdale of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service made the announcement.
The charges are the result of Operation Island Express, an ongoing, nationally-coordinated investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Chicago, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), and IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) offices in Chicago, in coordination with HSI San Juan. The Illinois Secretary of State Police; Elgin, Illinois, Police Department; Seymour, Indiana, Police Department; and Indiana State Police provided substantial assistance.
The HSI Assistant Attaché office in the Dominican Republic and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2), as well as various ICE, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, DSS, and IRS-CI offices around the country, provided invaluable assistance.
Trial Attorneys Frank Rangoussis and Marie Zisa of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Anderson for the District of Puerto Rico are prosecuting the case.
The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs worked with prosecutors to prepare the extradition request for Ruiz-Aguilera. The department thanks the Government of Mexico for their assistance in arresting and extraditing Ruiz-Aguilera.
Potential victims and the public may obtain information about the case at www.justice.gov/criminal/vns/caseup/beltrerj.html. Anyone who believes their identity may have been compromised in relation to this investigation or who may have information about particular crimes in this case should call the ICE toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or use its online tip form at www.ice.gov/tipline.
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 at www.ftc.gov/idtheft. Additional resources regarding identity theft can be found at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/pubs/ID_theft/idtheft.html, www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.html, and www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=186436,00.html.