NEWARK – An Elizabeth man was sentenced to 33 months in prison today for pretending to be an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer in order to defraud undocumented immigrants seeking to apply for legal status in the United States, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Ruben Alvarado, 28, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden to an information charging him with impersonation of a federal officer and identity fraud. Hayden imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From September 2009 through May 2011, and again from February 2013 through March 2013, Alvarado pretended to be an employee and officer of the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS-ICE), and the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).
Alvarado demanded and obtained money from his victims after promising to help them, through his purported government employment at DHS-ICE, to obtain official, or more permanent, status in the United States. He wore clothing bearing the letters “I.C.E.,” carried handcuffs, what appeared to be a holstered gun, a false photo identification card identifying him as a “TSA Air Marshall” and a badge that read, “Official Court Officer.” Alvarado recruited victims in New Jersey through in-person contact and victims in Florida via Facebook.
When Alvarado’s “customers” realized he was a fraud and demanded their money back, he would threaten and intimidate them, claiming to have the power to have them and their children deported. After his initial appearance on these charges in October 2012, Alvarado was released on bail. During a routine vehicle stop in March 2013, the Elizabeth Police Department found Alvarado again to be in possession of false immigration applications, a fingerprinting kit, clothing bearing the letters “I.C.E.,” a holster and blank pistol, and a fake “I.C.E.” badge.
Alvarado admitted in court that he has never been employed by any federal agency, but had produced false identification badges for himself and worn clothing and accessories suggestive of employment at ICE in order to solicit payments from undocumented immigrants for immigration assistance. He also admitted to having defrauded 33 victims in both New Jersey and Florida out of a total of $33,459, both before his federal arrest and while on pretrial release for these charges.
In addition to the prison term, Hayden sentenced Alvarado to serve three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $33,459 in restitution to his victims.
Fishman credited special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Professional Responsibility, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola; the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General in Miami, Fla., under the direction of Special Agent in Charge David Nieland; the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Grace H. Park; and the Elizabeth Police Department, under the direction of Police Director James Cosgrove, for the investigation leading to today’s sentence.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Alfonzo Walsman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Healthcare and Government Fraud Unit in Newark.
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