WASHINGTON – Armando Gonzalez-Medina, 35, of Richmond, Va., was sentenced today to 84 months in prison, after pleading guilty to participating in a racketeering conspiracy and conspiring to possess, produce and transfer fraudulent identification documents. The defendant is illegally within the United States and will be deported following the service of his prison sentence. Gonzalez-Medina was a member of the Richmond cell of a highly sophisticated and violent fraudulent document trafficking organization based in Mexico, with cells in 19 cities within the United States and 11 states, including three cells in Virginia.
Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; and John P. Torres, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) field office in Washington, D.C., made the announcement after the sentencing by Chief U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer in the Eastern District of Virginia.
According to evidence presented during the trial of co-conspirator Edy Oliverez-Jimnez in November 2011, Israel Cruz Millan, aka “El Muerto,” 28, of Raleigh, N.C., managed the organization’s operations in the United States, overseeing 19 cells in 11 states, including three in Virginia, that produced high-quality false identification cards distributed to illegal aliens. In each city where the organization operated, Millan placed a cell manager to supervise a number of “runners,” the lower level members of the organization who distributed business cards advertising the organization’s services and helped facilitate transactions with customers. The cost of fraudulent documents varied depending on the location, with counterfeit Resident Alien and Social Security cards typically selling from $150 to $200. Each cell allegedly maintained detailed sales records and divided the proceeds between the runner, the cell manager and the upper level managers in Mexico. In addition, from January 2008 through November 2010, members of the organization wired more than $1 million to Mexico.
In entering a guilty plea to the racketeering and document distribution conspiracy charges, Gonzalez-Medina admitted to working on behalf of the enterprise in Richmond.
Evidence during the Oliverez-Jiminez trial detailed how members of the organization sought to drive competitors from their territory by posing as customers in search of fraudulent documents and then attacking the competitors when they arrived to make a sale. These attacks allegedly included binding the victims’ hands, feet and mouth; repeatedly beating them; and threatening them with death if they continued to sell false identification documents in the area. The victims were left bound at the scene of the attack, and at least one victim died from one such attack that occurred in Little Rock, Ark., on July 6, 2010.
The government further alleged at trial that Cruz Millan tightly controlled the organization’s activities by keeping in regular contact with cell managers about fraudulent document inventory, bi-weekly sales reports and the presence of any rival document vendors. Members of the organization who violated internal rules imposed by Millan were subject to discipline, including shaving eyebrows, wearing weights, beatings and other violent acts.
Twenty-seven members of the organization were originally arrested on Nov. 18, 2010. To date, 26 of those arrested have pleaded guilty in this case. On Nov. 29, 2010, the remaining charged defendant, Edy Oliverez-Jiminez, was convicted by a jury for racketeering conspiracy; murder, kidnapping and assault in aid of racketeering; conspiracy to possess, produce and transfer false identification documents; and money laundering conspiracy. On March 2, 2012, U.S. District Judge sentenced Oliverez-Jiminez to two consecutive life sentences. In support, Judge Hudson explained from the bench that he imposed the life sentences to send a message of deterrence for Oliverez-Jiminez’s involvement with the violent racketeering organization based out of Mexico. He further stated that the sentences were just, in light of the defendant’s involvement in one of the most violent murders that he has observed in his career.
The investigation was led by the Norfolk office of ICE-HSI, which falls under the Washington, D.C., office. ICE-HSI received assistance from the FBI, Virginia State Police and Chesterfield County Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Gill and Angela Mastandrea-Miller of the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Addison Thompson of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.