EL PASO, TEXAS – Wilver Jose Polanco-Alvarez, a 26-year-old Dominican Republic citizen residing in Miami, and Jose Eduardo Gomez Salas, a 25-year-old Dominican Republic citizen residing in New York, admitted in federal court today to using stolen personal identification information to obtain high-end electronic devices such as cell phones, laptop computers, tablets and watches.
Appearing before Senior U.S. District Judge David Briones this morning, both defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Paso Del Norte International Bridge in El Paso encountered the defendants on April 11, 2020. During an inspection, officers seized several electronic devices belonging to the defendants. A subsequent review of Gomez’s iPhone revealed personal identification information of multiple individuals as well as photographs of Polanco assuming and utilizing different aliases in the form of fraudulent driver’s licenses from Indiana, Texas, California, New Mexico, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Further investigation revealed that the defendants operated a scheme in at least five different states with the help of others to purchase and activate cell phones and other electronic devices at retail stores using fraudulent identification documents and stolen personal identification information to include wireless account information. After collecting the new phones and devices, Gomez mailed the items to 28-year-old alleged ringleader Marcos Andres Briceno-Romero in New Jersey.
Polanco and Gomez have remained in federal custody since their arrest in April 2020. They face up to 20 years in federal prison on the conspiracy charge. Each aggravated identity theft charge calls for a mandatory two years in federal prison. Sentencing has yet to be scheduled.
U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff and Special Agent in Charge Erik P. Breitzke of Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) El Paso Division made today’s announcement.
Jury selection and trial has yet to be scheduled for three remaining co-defendants: Briceno-Romero, 21-year-old Wiktoria Lawika of New York and 20-year-old Justin Brito of New York.