Man who went to prison under Puerto Rico woman's name sentenced again for identity theft

William Morris
Des Moines Register

His actual name, federal prosecutors now say, was Jefren Moreno Godoy. But in multiple arrests, criminal cases and even incarcerations spanning nearly a decade of law enforcement contacts, he was someone entirely different.

Godoy, 39, was sentenced March 25 to three years in federal prison for aggravated identity theft and misuse of a Social Security number. Court records show that Godoy, an undocumented immigrant from Colombia, has been arrested and charged repeatedly with theft and other crimes in Iowa, Illinois and Texas since 2013, but in each case under a false name stolen from a female U.S. citizen living in Puerto Rico. 

According to court filings, Godoy was arrested in January 2013 and eventually charged with more than 20 crimes related to a string of at least seven burglaries in the Quad Cities area, pleaded guilty and received a 15-year prison sentence. Federal prosecutors in March wrote that Godoy was part of "an organized criminal group that traveled the country committing residential burglaries and shipping the stolen goods to Texas."

In pleading guilty to identity theft, Godoy admitted the following: During his arrest, Godoy provided a false name and Social Security number, which officials at the time did not detect. As a result, his criminal case and eventual conviction therefore proceeded under the name of Marangeli Ortiz-Ortiz. The real Ortiz-Ortiz, prosecutors say, was a woman living in Puerto Rico. Because Ortiz-Ortiz was a U.S. citizen, Godoy's conviction did not trigger potential deportation or other immigration consequences.

Godoy's ruse was not detected until March 2018, when he was transferred to a halfway house and granted work-release privileges. Unknown to him, the true Marangeli Ortiz-Ortiz had since died, causing his work authorization to be rejected. Godoy then escaped from custody.

Even after being discovered, Godoy still made successful use of Ortiz-Ortiz's name at least once more, giving it to state and federal officials who questioned him aboard a passenger train in Washington state in June 2019. Because his fingerprints matched those uploaded to an FBI database at the time of his arrest, his identity was verified, and it was not until December 2019 that he was finally arrested and admitted his true name in Everett, Washington.

In presentence court filings, Godoy's attorney argued for lenience, saying he was remorseful and noting a troubled childhood and his efforts to parent a daughter living in the United States. In contrast, prosecutors wrote that Godoy has shown "a troubling history of antisocial behavior," having used the same false identity in criminal cases in Iowa, Illinois and Texas.

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In addition to Godoy's 36-month sentence, Judge John Jarvey ordered that he be deported to Colombia upon release. Should he later return to the United States, he must serve one year of supervised release.

Godoy's attorney did not respond to a message seeking comment.

It is not clear from court records if the real Marangeli Ortiz-Ortiz, who died before federal prosecutors began their investigation, was ever aware of or inconvenienced by the misuse of her identity. Nor is it clear how Godoy obtained her name and Social Security number. A message to the prosecutor who handled the case was not immediately returned.

Court records also do not provide many details of the "organized criminal group" with which Godoy allegedly worked, but a 2013 Quad City Times article noted the arrests of "Ortiz O. Marangeli" and Luis Madera-Martinez, caught by Moline police as they fled the scene of a burglary.

William Morris covers courts for the Des Moines Register. He can be contacted at wrmorris2@registermedia.com, 715-573-8166 or on Twitter at @DMRMorris.