San Juan, Puerto Rico - Thirty-one individuals were arrested Thursday for conspiring to commit mail fraud, theft of government money and property and aggravated identity theft. The arrests took place following a joint probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), FBI and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General dubbed Bad Grades.
The arrests took place in the municipalities of Bayamon, Arecibo, Lares, Dorado, Vega Baja, Trujillo Alto, Manati, San Sebastian, Jayuya, Juana Diaz, Toa Alta, Carolina, Caguas, Cayey, Las Piedras, Salinas and Ponce.
The 72-count indictment includes 26 counts for mail fraud, one count for theft of public money and 45 counts for aggravated identity theft. The mail fraud charges relate to payments made through the U.S. mail system to Rocket Learning, Inc., for fraudulent invoices to the Puerto Rico Department of Education. The theft of public money count is related to the approximately $954,297 in stolen federal funds. The 45 identity theft counts relate to the fraudulent use of the name and signature of real students.
Those arrested are: Brenda Perez Garcia, Juan Nieves Rivera Rivera, Jose Acevedo Rivera, Lynnette Asencio Plaza, Hector Baez Villanueva, Kay Pagan Rivera, Karenie Laborde Muñiz, Annerys Rodriguez Aponte, Lis Garcia Medina, Edjeledeira Melendez-Rivera Jonathan Morales Febus, Jeannette Ramirez-Zapata, Francisco Sanchez Zayas, Yamaris Torres Ortiz, Sayra Lopez Torre,s Anita Ortiz Rodriguez, Sheilla Pagan Carrasquillo, Elba Yanira Jimenez Perez, Gretchen Roman Soto, Milliam Centeno Soto, Emmanuel Cruz Martinez, Katia Tapia Torres, Noraima Mercado Vazquez, Nayra Alicea Delgado, Eileen Gutierrez StoneGlorymar Rodriguez Casiano, Minerva Mendoza Acevedo, Suhayl Mendez Reyes, Javier Reyes Lopez, Luisa Garcia Arriaga and Jose Sanchez Bauza.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth A. Erbe and Financial Fraud and Corruption Unit Chief Jose Capo-Iriarte. If found guilty, defendants face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and two additional years for each aggravated identity theft count.