SALEM — For the second time this month, police have charged a man with identity fraud after discovering that he was using a Puerto Rico resident's personal information to remain in the United States.
The man, originally booked under the name "Jose Soto" but now identified as Luis Antonio Reyes Santana, 33, is being held on $15,000 cash bail — an amount he will be allowed to post only if he agrees to surrender his Dominican passport and wear a GPS bracelet.
Santana, however, has no intention of complying with either of those conditions, his lawyer, Christopher Basso, told Salem District Court Judge Randy Chapman on Wednesday.
The reason: "By producing his passport to the court, it would be tantamount to a confession," said Basso.
And Basso said if his client uses the address where he has been living with his girlfriend and their three-week-old son in Salem in order to be released on a GPS, that would jeopardize her public housing.
Police say that Santana was living under the Soto identity at 25 Garden St. in north Salem, possibly for as long as five years.
Santana came onto the radar screen of police last October. Patrolman James Bedard said he was randomly running plates when he noticed that the registered owner of a 2012 Honda Accord, "Soto," hadn't received a driver's license until the age of 30, something he found unusual, prosecutor Michael Varone told the court.
A little more than a year ago, Bedard attended a program called "Identifying the Imposter," sponsored by the New England State Police Information Network.
The class is taught by Saugus police Officer James Scott, who has run similar classes around New England.
During the class, Bedard learned that drug cartels frequently employ "brokers" who can provide individuals with what they call a "package" of documents that enable someone to create a new identity upon arriving in the United States.
Many of those documents come from the Puerto Rican criminal history board and their motor vehicle registry, both of which have been significantly compromised.
Bedard did some additional investigation and "ran" the record of "Soto," discovering that the FBI had multiple files on that name and Social Security number. That, the officer said, suggests that the same stolen Puerto Rican Social Security number had been used by at least two other people.
He went further, requesting copies of photos of the individuals in the FBI files from Puerto Rico and Louisiana, and noticed that neither looked like the Registry of Motor Vehicles photo of "Soto."
Bedard let other officers know what he'd found.
Then, on Sunday, Patrolman Matthew Fisher stopped the Honda on Highland Avenue for crossing the center line, Varone told the judge.
The driver, "Soto," produced a license and registration.
Because of a language barrier, Fisher called for help from Patrolman Jeffrey Soto, who has spoken Spanish his entire life.
Patrolman Soto told Fisher and Bedard, who also showed up at the arrest scene, that he noticed that "Soto" was speaking with a Dominican accent.
Bedard, with the help of Patrolman Soto, began asking some questions about Puerto Rico. The man under arrest answered one question, then began to hesitate.
He was shown a photo of the man believed to be the actual Jose Antonio Soto, from Puerto Rico, and began shaking his head. The officers asked him his real name. He asked for a lawyer.
During booking, he refused to answer routine questions about his parents' names and his mother's maiden name, Varone told the judge.
A booking photo was sent to the Massachusetts state police Fusion Center, and a facial recognition software program identified the man in custody as Santana, who also holds a current Dominican passport.
Basso, Santana's lawyer, urged the judge to set bail at no more than $2,000 to $4,000, saying that if his client had a false identity, it was only so that he could work in the United States.
"You've got a man with no record of arrests, convictions or defaults," said Basso, who said his client works in construction.
And Basso also questioned the justification for the traffic stop Sunday, as well as the reliability of the training the officers had received.
And with a three-week-old "U.S. citizen child," Santana has "an incentive to stay here" and fight the case.
He also called the prosecutor's request for his client to surrender the Dominican passport "inappropriate."
Chapman, the judge, disagreed.
"He certainly has a Fifth Amendment privilege not to produce it, but that doesn't mean we can't impose it as a condition," said the judge, who also noted that Santana refused to sign routine court paperwork prior to his arraignment.
"If he wants to be released, he's going to have to provide it," said the judge, who called him a "strong risk of flight."
Besides identity fraud, Santana pleaded not guilty to two counts of using a false motor vehicle document, providing a false name at arrest, and failing to stay within marked lanes.
A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for June 5.
Last week, a man who was originally identified as Francisco Robles was found to be someone else following an investigation by Bedard and Patrolman Robert Monk, who discovered that his true name is Adolfo Richard Severino Santos.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.