Ex-Police Officer Accussed of Being in U.S. Under Stolen Identity

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Prosecutors have filed a criminal charge against a former Alaska police officer accused of living in the country illegally under a stolen identity.

Prosecutors say Rafael Mora-Lopez knowingly submitted false applications to collect thousands of dollars in dividends available to legal residents from the state's oil-rich savings account.

Mora-Lopez was charged Monday with unsworn falsification. State prosecutors said he agreed to plead guilty to the charge and pay restitution for more than $27,000 in dividends from the Alaska Permanent Fund.

"He told me through his attorney that he will pay with a cashier's check," said Clint Campion, a supervisor in the state special prosecutions office.

Mora-Lopez, 47, lived in Alaska more than two decades as Rafael Alberto Espinoza, who is a U.S. citizen who lives in Mexico. Mora-Lopez has declined to comment and his attorney, Allen Dayan, did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Mora-Lopez pleaded guilty to federal counts of passport fraud and false claim of U.S. citizenship after initially pleading not guilty to an original count of passport fraud. He is out on bail under home confinement and electronic monitoring, conditions that likely will be kept in place after a plea hearing on Friday, Campion said.

Mora-Lopez faces a maximum of 13 years in prison at his federal sentencing hearing in August and as much as two years in the state case.

According to the state charging documents, Mora-Lopez was acquainted with Espinoza's sister and somehow obtained Espinoza's identity papers. Federal court papers say Mora-Lopez's wife was a neighbor of the real Rafael Alberto Espinoza in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the 1980s.

Until his April arrest, Mora-Lopez was a well-regarded police officer, a job he held for six years. He previously worked as a city bus driver for six years.

Mora-Lopez was born in Mexico City and later lived in Guadalajara, according to the state charging documents. He was unable to make a living in Mexico after completing college and was unable to obtain a visa allowing him to move to the U.S., but came to Alaska in 1989 on a travel visa, the papers say.

That same year, authorities say, Mora-Lopez used Rafael Espinoza's name, date of birth and Social Security number to apply for an Alaska driver's license. Besides receiving permanent fund dividends, Mora-Lopez also repeatedly used the false identity to vote in local and national elections, according to the federal court papers.

Mora-Lopez also used the assumed identity and citizenship to bring his future wife to Alaska and help her obtain naturalization as a U.S. citizen, the documents say. Authorities have said the couple has a child. No charges have been filed against the wife, Margarita Cynthia Espinoza.

Authorities said Mora-Lopez's true identity was discovered after he applied for a passport renewal and the State Department noted someone else appeared to have a passport under the same identity, according to court documents.
Neither Mora-Lopez nor Rafael Espinoza had any known criminal record, so a pre-employment background check by police on Mora-Lopez found nothing, authorities said. He also passed a polygraph test.

The case leaves police facing complications including potential challenges to Mora-Lopez's pension earned under the false identity and his testimony in past criminal trials.