Eugenio Quiles Tamarit, a foreign national living in Miami-Dade County, is now awaiting trial in federal court after being arrested for fraudulently using a Puerto Rican birth certificate to seek a U.S. passport and a Florida driver’s license, according to court records.
Quiles Tamarit, 25, was arrested Jan. 14, one week after a grand jury indicted him on charges of making a false claim to U.S. citizenship, aggravated identity theft and making a false statement in a U.S. passport application.
It is the latest in a long series of federal criminal cases over the last year involving Puerto Rican birth certificates, which supposedly are fraud-proof after older certificates were invalidated in 2010. A prior case ended Dec. 30 when defendant Edinson Canaveral Sánchez, an undocumented Colombian, pleaded guilty. He is to be sentenced in March in federal court.
Court records in the Quiles Tamarit case do not say where the defendant is from, other than he is an “alien,” usually an official reference to a person from an another country. Court records do not say whether Quiles Tamarit is an undocumented immigrant, and his public defender lawyer could not be reached for comment.
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The indictment says that on April 18, 2012, Quiles Tamarit presented a Puerto Rican birth certificate in the name of another person as proof of identity to apply for a Florida driver license.
On Oct. 24, 2014, according to the indictment, Quiles Tamarit applied for a U.S. passport, pretending to be an American citizen and using a Puerto Rican birth certificate to identify himself.
Quiles Tamarit was arraigned Jan. 20 and trial was set for late February.
It is significant that Puerto Rican birth certificates continue to appear frequently in federal court in Miami and across the country.
The reason is that this was not supposed to be happening after Puerto Rican authorities in 2010 began issuing new, security-enhanced birth certificates. The Puerto Rican government issued the new certificates as a result of a law passed in 2009.
It is unclear if the defendant in the latest case used a birth certificate issued before or after 2010.
According to Puerto Rico’s federal affairs administration website, the new law reflects information from the U.S. State and Homeland Security Departments about the frequent fraudulent use of Puerto Rican birth certificates to obtain passports, Social Security benefits, and other federal services.
At the time, federal officials estimated that 40 percent of passport fraud cases involved the use of Puerto Rican birth certificates.
The issue is not that the Puerto Rican birth certificates are fake. They are authentic, but they were originally issued to a person born in Puerto Rico who then, as an adult, sold it to a foreign national or to criminal groups that sell the documents to undocumented immigrants.
Undocumented immigrants from Latin America are the prime buyers of Puerto Rican birth certificates because that way they can claim to be U.S. citizens.
Most of the defendants in South Florida criminal cases have been foreign nationals from Latin America.
Alfonso Chardy: 305-375-3435, @AlfonsoChardy