Two Methuen Residents Among 12 Accused of Stealing Identities and Benefits

U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. (Courtesy photograph.)

Two Methuen residents are among 12 charged in federal court Thursday in Boston as part of a sweep targeting document and benefit fraud.

Each allegedly used the identities of U.S. Citizens from Puerto Rico as their own. Ten of the 12 individuals are also “unlawfully present in the United States, and six have criminal records in the names of the victims whose identities they have stolen,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Methuen residents Francisco Antonio Sanchez Bernabe, 48, and Lilian Fana Martinez, 28, Dominican nationals, are said to have presented a victim’s stolen identity to law enforcement as their own during multiple arrests. Sanchez Bernabe, 48, has been arrested/and or charged three times in Massachusetts. The first in May 2015, for possession and distribution of heroin; in April 2017, for possession to distribute a class A substance; and in August 2017, for failure to stop for a police officer.

“This case is part of our ongoing effort to target federal crime in the Lawrence area,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “The 12 men and women charged allegedly stole and used the identities of U.S. citizens to live illegally in the United States, receive government benefits in the names of their victims and even commit crimes in the names of those victims.”

The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigation’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, a specialized field investigative group comprised of personnel from various local, state and federal agencies with expertise in detecting, deterring and disrupting organizations and individuals involved in various types of document, identity and benefit fraud schemes. The agency is currently investigating suspected aliens who are believed to have obtained stolen identities of U.S. citizens born in Puerto Rico. Many of the individuals used the identities to obtain public benefits, which they would not otherwise be eligible to receive, including Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles identity documents, Social Security numbers and Medicaid, and to engage in suspicious financial transactions, including transferring funds.

With one exception, the following individuals were charged with aggravated identity theft and false representation of a Social Security number:

David Alexander Arias Arias, 31, a Dominican national from Lawrence, is currently serving a 41-month sentence in federal prison in Pennsylvania. In 2017, Arias Arias was caught on a court-authorized wiretap dealing fentanyl under his stolen identity. He was subsequently charged in federal court in New Hampshire.

Jose Miguel Baez, 43, a Dominican national residing in Lawrence, has received more than $8400 in unemployment benefits in his victim’s name.

Rafael Emilio Cruz Ciprian, 26, a Dominican national residing in Lawrence, was arrested in Lowell Aug. 4, 2018, on various charges, including giving false name/information to an officer and distribution of a class A substance. During the arrest, Cruz Ciprian gave law enforcement the identity of the victim whose identity was stolen.

Alejandro Yoel Diaz Diaz, 28, a Dominican national residing in Lawrence, was arrested twice for drug dealing and, on both occasions, provided his victim’s identity to law enforcement as his own.

Mirtha Magdalenny Lara Lara, 31, a Dominican national living in Lawrence, is charged with unlawful permanent residence status.

Elluz Yelitza Penalo Aguasvivas, 30, a Venezuelan national residing in Lawrence.

Ismael Robles Tejeda, 29, a Dominican national residing in Lawrence.

Damarys Sanchez Sanchez, 44, a Dominican national residing in Lawrence, was charged only with misuse of a Social Security number.

Santo Pascual Soto Diaz, 38, a Dominican national residing in Lawrence.

Freddy Tejada-Diaz, also known as Freddy Tejada Zapata, Freddy Tejadadia, Fredy Zapata or Fredy Antonio Zapata-Soto, 52, is a Dominican national residing in Lawrence. Tejada-Diaz was ordered deported in 1996 by a judge in New York, though Tejada-Diaz failed to appear on the court date the judge gave the order. Tejada-Diaz instead, he assumed a new identity and was eventually arrested for shoplifting in New Hampshire under his victim’s name.

“Document and identity fraud are serious crimes with far reaching and significant consequences for the individual victims, and which carry the potential for a broader threat to public safety and homeland security,” said Colonel Kerry Gilpin, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police.

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