THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Doctor admits scheme to change immigrants’ fingerprints

Video images from the US attorney show Jose Elias Zaiter-Pou (right) explaining the fingerprint altering procedure and the surgical tools brought to the meeting in July. Video images from the US attorney show Jose Elias Zaiter-Pou (right) explaining the fingerprint altering procedure and the surgical tools brought to the meeting in July.
By Stewart Bishop
Globe Correspondent / February 11, 2011

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A Dominican doctor was sentenced to prison yesterday after he admitted that he conspired to help conceal the identity of illegal immigrants from law enforcement officials by altering patient fingerprints, authorities said.

Jose Elias Zaiter-Pou, 62, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston following a government sting operation in which he met with an informant in a Woburn hotel and agreed to surgically alter the informant’s fingerprints in exchange for $4,500, US District Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said in a statement.

Luz Martinez-LeBron, 42, of Puerto Rico, and Ricky Baez-Cruz, 29, of the Dominican Republic, were also charged in the scheme, according to Christina DiIorio-Sterling, the US attorney’s spokeswoman.

During the July meeting at the Red Roof Inn, secretly audio- and videorecorded by law enforcement officials, Zaiter-Pou described to the informant how he would surgically remove a portion of the fingerprint and then suture the tip back, resulting in a new, unrecognizable print, Ortiz said. Zaiter-Pou brought surgical equipment, as well as antibiotics and drugs for anesthesia to the hotel, she said. During the meeting, the informant stated a desire to have the procedure performed to avoid jail and deportation, according to court documents.

According to court documents, Martinez-LeBron contacted potential clients and worked with Zaiter-Pou to set up meetings where the doctor would perform the surgery. Baez-Cruz, a former client of Zaiter-Pou’s who underwent the fingerprint surgery, attended meetings to give testimonial about the procedure’s success, the documents said.

US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock sentenced Zaiter-Pou to 12 months and one day in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Woodlock also ordered Zaiter-Pou deported to the Dominican Republic after he serves his time, Ortiz said.

In October, Martinez-LeBron pleaded guilty to conspiring to shield illegal aliens from detection and was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, Ortiz said.

Baez-Cruz has been charged with conspiring to shield illegal aliens from detection and illegal reentry after deportation. His case is pending, Ortiz said.

The case was investigated by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with assistance from the Essex Sheriff’s Department and the Woburn Police Department. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant US Attorney Jerry DeMaio of Ortiz’s Major Crimes Unit.

Stewart Bishop can be reached at sbishop@globe.com.