By Stephanie Barry
on May 04, 2017 at 5:58 PM

SPRINGFIELD -- A Dominican national who sneaked into the U.S. with phony documentation admitted Thursday to brokering false immigration papers.

Sandro Tavara Mora, 47, once of 108 Groveland St., Springfield, pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to three criminal counts including conspiracy to possess and transfer identification documents and fraud and misuse of visas.

He faces certain deportation, plus 27 months behind bars in a federal prison in this country, under a plea agreement with prosecutors. Mora's plea marks another of several dozen convictions under Operation Island Express, a sweeping effort by the U.S. Department of Justice and partner agencies to crack down on illegal residency through the use of fraudulent documents.

Mora, like many of his co-defendants, bought and sold identification papers including birth certificates, Social Security cards and driver's licenses from legal citizens of Puerto Rico and sold them on the black market, according to court records.

He is set for sentencing on June 22.

Mora was arrested by Springfield police in June 2014 while he was living under the alias Jose Laureano Ayala, a Puerto Rican citizen, court filings show. Mora was arrested as part of a drug investigation focused on his home that yielded thousands of bags of heroin, previous news stories show.

Mora was identified by local investigators as a player in a "large heroin factory." City officers uncovered a trove of false identification records during a search of his home. They invited immigration officials into the fold and he was eventually properly identified through fingerprints. Court records show he was deterred from coming into the country in 2000 by the U.S. Coast Guard and redirected back to the Dominican Republic.

It is unclear how long Mora had been living in Springfield or in the U.S. prior to his arrest. He was charged in federal court the following year.

Operation Island Express dates back several years, public accounts show. An intensive investigation focused on Puerto Rico led law enforcement to packages Mora had been receiving in this city. The drug investigation operated on a separate track.