The Real Joanne the Scammer: Former ICE Lawyer Steals Identities of Immigrants He Tried to Deport

Central American immigrant families take refuge at a Catholic Charities “respite center” after being released from ICE custody on June 11, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. Thousands of undocumented immigrants continue to cross into the U.S., despite the Trump administration’s recent “zero tolerance” approach to immigration policy.
Photo: John Moore (Getty Images)

On Thursday, the former chief attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle got four years in federal prison for running bank scams that include stealing the identities of people he was trying to deport.

According to the Seattle Times, the sentencing was merely a formality, since defense attorneys for Raphael Sanchez, 44, had already agreed to a four-year sentence after Sanchez pleaded “guilty to charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.” The Times notes that had Sanchez not agreed to a deal on the fraud charge alone, he was looking at a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison. In addition to prison time, Sanchez was ordered to pay $190,000 in restitution and agreed to give up his license to practice law.


Here’s how the Times describes how the top ICE lawyer ran his scams:

Sanchez, who was in charge of providing counsel to ICE agents and responsible for removal and asylum hearings in four Western states, stole the identities of at least seven would-be immigrants and used them to create fake identification documents submitted to banks and credit-card companies to open accounts. Over several years—all while he was a lawyer for ICE and the Department of Homeland Security—he stole more than $190,000, according to the plea agreement and court documents.

In sentencing documents, the Justice Department said Sanchez “betrayed his position of public trust to prey on our nation’s immigrants and line his pockets with the credit of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Sanchez apologized to the court Thursday, adding that he’s lost everything. He’s been in custody since his guilty plea in February.

“Like all men, Raphael Sanchez is far more than this, the worst thing he has ever done,” Sanchez’s defense attorney Cassandra Stamm wrote in a sentencing memorandum viewed by the Times. Her client survived “to build a life that could be viewed, at least from the outside looking in, as privileged, stable and significant.”


Stamm also cited his “brutal upbringing” as a reason for his crimes. His lawyer, however, didn’t note the heartlessness needed to steal the identity of someone desperately seeking a better life while you’re actively working to deport them.

Not only was this slimeball stealing their identities, but he was using his access to government computers to create ID cards in his victims’ names. Once he had IDs in their names, he would use the information to create bank accounts and credit cards with their information. This shitbag even went so far as to use the photo of a slain woman published in the media on forged identification documents, prosecutors said.


This douche also used three of his victims on his taxes as dependents so that he could receive deductions.

In short, fuck this guy.


Correction: Thursday, June 28, 2018: An earlier version of the story had a photo of a man named Raphael Sanchez who was not the person referred to in this story. We regret the error.

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About the author

Stephen A. Crockett Jr.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.