According to assistant U.S. attorney Thomas Bradley, the hefty fine is justified by the fact that Mora-Lopez holds a degree in chemical engineering from a unidentified but reputed university in Mexico, and has the prospective earning power in Mexico to pay such a fine. Bradley wants the fine to be stiff enough to deter other white-collar illegal immigrants, but asks for a much shorter sentence than expected because Lopez is proven not to be a threat to public safety. Mora-Lopez has been out on bail, but under home confinement and electronic monitoring.
Mora-Lopez entered the United States from Mexico illegally in 1989. He then stole the identity of Rafael Espinoza, a U.S. citizen living in Mexico at the time, to bring his wife, Margarita Cynthia Espinoza, to the U.S. They have since sired one child. He worked as a bus driver for Anchorage People Mover from 1999-2005, then was hired by the Anchorage Police Department. Mora-Lopez was caught in January 2010 when he renewed his passport under the name of Rafael Espinoza; the real Rafael Espinoza had already applied to renew his own passport. When confronted by his superiors at APD, Mora-Lopez owned up to the crime and promptly resigned from the department; he would have been fired. Mora is said to have compiled a good work record with both People Mover and the Anchorage Police Department.
On June 1st, 2011, Mora-Lopez appeared in federal court in Anchorage and pleaded guilty to one count each of passport fraud and false claim of U.S. citizenship. You can read the 18-page plea agreement document HERE. The story spread far beyond Alaska and was even picked up by the Washington Post and ALIPAC.
The state of Alaska also contemplated charges against Mora-Lopez for filing false applications for Permanent Fund dividends; he received $27,000 worth of PFD checks since coming to Alaska. However, he has since repaid the money, so the state may not pursue further action, although they haven't ruled it out.
On August 19th, Rafael Mora-Lopez spoke out on his own behalf for the first time in this separate Alaska Dispatch article.
It's bad enough this guy broke into our country, but what compounded the violation and turned it into a full-blown crime was the fact that he stole the identity of another U.S. citizen to do it. Identity theft causes its victims untold harm and makes them jump through hoops to correct the problem. It is the identity theft that warrants the stiff fine. The fact that he confessed when confronted and spared the taxpayer the cost of a trial does not mitigate his crime.