Washington, DC - A Honduran national pleaded guilty Tuesday for his role in a scheme to sell identity documents belonging to Puerto Rican U.S. citizens to individuals illegally residing in the United States.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico, Acting Director Mark A. Morgan 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.

Jose Armando Pavon Salazar (Pavon), 37, a citizen of Honduras, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpi of the District of Puerto Rico to one count of conspiracy to encourage an alien to reside in the United States for financial gain.  Pavon was arrested in El Salvador in January 2018 and extradited to Puerto Rico on Nov. 28, 2018.  Before his arrest and extradition, Pavon had been a fugitive since March 22, 2012, when a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Puerto Rico returned a 50-count superseding indictment charging Pavon and 52 other defendants with offenses involving a massive identity fraud scheme. 

According to the admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, Pavon and his co-conspirators participated in a scheme to encourage illegal aliens to reside in the United States for financial gain.  To accomplish the scheme, Pavon and his co-conspirators sold government-issued identity documents, including Government of Puerto Rico-issued birth certificates and corresponding U.S. Social Security cards (“identity documents”).  Pavon and his co-conspirators knew these documents pertained to real people.  Pavon admitted that the documents were sold to illegal aliens so they could assume the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens, and/or fraudulently apply for other identity documents in that person’s name in order to reside in the United States.

According to the admissions made as part of the guilty plea, Pavon paid his supplier approximately $400 for the identify documents, consisting of a Puerto Rican birth certificate and a Social Security card.  The supplier would then use the U.S. mail to send the documents to Pavon.  To date, dozens of persons have been convicted in connection with the scheme. 

Pursuant to his plea agreement, Pavon agreed to be removed to Honduras upon release from incarceration.  Sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 10, 2019, before District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpi.

Trial Attorney Frank Rangoussis of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section is prosecuting the case.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Puerto Rico is providing assistance in this matter.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs handled the extradition in this matter.  The United States thanks the Government of El Salvador for its assistance in the extradition of Pavon.