Ex-Alaska officer pleads guilty to state charges - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Ex-Alaska officer pleads guilty to state charges

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A former Anchorage police officer accused of being an illegal immigrant living under a stolen identity pleaded guilty Friday to a separate charge that he collected thousands of dollars in dividends from Alaska's oil-rich savings account available only to legitimate residents.

Rafael Mora-Lopez made the plea in Superior Court on the felony count of unsworn falsification. State prosecutors say the charge applies to someone who knowingly submits a false application for dividends from the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Clint Campion, a supervisor in the state special prosecutions office, said Mora-Lopez also paid restitution for dividends collected the past two decades. Campion said Mora-Lopez handed over a cashier's check for $27,352.80 to Alaska revenue officials before Friday's hearing. Sentencing in the case is set for Sept. 16.

Mora-Lopez, 47, lived in Alaska more than two decades as Rafael Alberto Espinoza, a U.S. citizen who lives in Guadalajara, Mexico.

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.

Mora-Lopez, who is married and has a child, is out on bail under home confinement and electronic monitoring. After the short plea hearing, Campion said he was comfortable with those conditions, which were set in the federal case.

"I'm satisfied that the house arrest and the electronic monitoring bracelet are sufficient to ensure that he doesn't leave the state and that he'll appear at all court hearings," Campion said. "Additionally, Mr. Mora-Lopez has no other criminal history and so I don't view him right now as a flight risk."

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

Mora-Lopez was acquainted with Espinoza's sister and somehow obtained Espinoza's identity papers, according to the state charging documents. 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 came to Alaska in 1989 on a travel visa, the papers say.

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

Authorities said a pre-employment background check by police on Mora-Lopez found nothing because neither he nor Rafael Espinoza had any known criminal record. Mora-Lopez also passed a polygraph test.

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

The police department is preparing a spread sheet of all the cases Mora-Lopez worked on in anticipation about potential challenges.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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