Virginia Beach Member of Sophisticated Fraudulent Document Ring Sentenced to 46 Months in Prison
RICHMOND, Va. – Oscar Zaraut Correa, 26, was sentenced today to 46 months in prison for his participation as a runner for the Virginia Beach, Va., cell of a highly sophisticated and violent fraudulent document trafficking organization based in Mexico, with cells in 19 cities and 11 states, including three cells in Virginia.
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and John P. Torres, Special Agent in Charge for ICE’s, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Washington, D.C., made the announcement after sentencing by Chief United States District Judge James R. Spencer.
According to the 12-count indictment, Israel Cruz Millan, a/k/a “El Muerto,” 28, of Raleigh, N.C., managed the organization’s operations in the United States, overseeing cells in nearly a dozen states that produced high-quality false identification cards for illegal aliens. He allegedly placed a manager in each city, each of whom supervised a number of “runners” 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 for $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. From January 2008 through November 2010, members of the organization are accused of wiring more than $1 million to Mexico.
The indictment alleges that Cruz Millan’s organization sought to drive competitors from their territory by posing as customers and 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 allegedly left bound at the scene of the attack, and at least one victim died from the beatings.
Cruz Millan is accused of tightly controlling the organization’s activities, keeping in regular contact with cell managers about inventory, bi-weekly sales reports and competition. The indictment alleges that members who violated internal rules within the operation were subject to discipline, including shaving eyebrows, wearing weights, beatings, and other violent acts.
Zaraut-Correa pled guilty on Jan. 27, 2011, to conspiring to produce and transfer false identification documents and possess a document-making implement. As alleged in the indictment and related filings, Zaraut-Correa served as a “runner” for the enterprise in Virginia Beach, Va., for approximately six months prior to his arrest on Nov. 18, 2010. According to court documents, Zaraut-Correa worked with the supervisor of the Virginia Beach cell in attempting to lure a suspected competitor in for an attack planned for Sept. 18, 2010. The defendant and two others planned on following the competitor back to his residence, where the victim would be attacked and threatened with bodily harm if he continued to sell fraudulent documents in competition with the organization. The competitor never showed up for the meeting, and Zaraut-Correa and others later called off the planned attack when they discovered the targeted competitor was actually a close associate of other members of the organization.
Twenty-seven members of the organization were originally arrested on Nov. 18, 2010. To date, 22 of those arrested have pled guilty in this case. Five defendants remain pending for trial, which is scheduled for October 17, 2011.
The investigation was centered in the Norfolk office of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which falls under the Washington, D.C., office. ICE HSI received assistance from the Virginia State Police and Chesterfield County Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Gill and Angela Mastandrea-Miller 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.
Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.