Leader of Sophisticated, Violent Fraudulent Document Ring Pleads Guilty
RICHMOND, Va. – The leader of a Mexican-based highly sophisticated and violent fraudulent document trafficking organization pled guilty today for his role in managing cells in 19 cities and 11 states, including three cells in Virginia.
Israel Cruz Millan, a/k/a “El Muerto,” 26, of Raleigh, N.C., admitted today to managing the organization’s operations in the United States, which included the kidnapping, beating and – at least on one occasion – murdering competitors and using violence to discipline its own members. To date, 26 members of the organization have pled guilty.
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and John P. Torres, Special Agent in Charge of the ICE HSI field office in Washington, D.C., made the announcement after the plea was accepted by United States District Judge Henry E. Hudson.
“Israel Cruz Millan admitted today that he led a violent organization that sold fraudulent identification documents to illegal aliens in the United States,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Like other organized crime groups, Milan's organization utilized extreme levels of violence – including murder, kidnappings and assaults – to protect its turf, to eliminate rivals, and to discipline its members. Today's plea is a result of the tremendous efforts of ICE agents who discovered and helped to dismantle this brutal organization.”
"Mr. Millan’s guilty plea demonstrates that document fraud is a violent and dangerous enterprise that criminal organizations seek to engage in for profit," said SAC Torres. “ICE HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to dismantle criminal organizations involved in the production and distribution of fraudulent immigration and other identification documents.”
Today, Millan pled guilty to a racketeering conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison; conspiracy to produce and transfer false identification documents, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years; and conspiring to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years. He will be sentenced on Feb. 16, 2012.
Millan admitted today to overseeing cells in nearly a dozen states that produced high-quality false identification cards to illegal aliens. He 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 from $150 to $200. Each cell 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 wired more than $1 million to Mexico.
Millan also admitted in court today that his organization sought to drive competitors from their territory by posing as customers and attacking them when they arrived to make a sale. These attacks 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 the beatings.
Court records indicate that in June 2009, members of Millan’s organization in Richmond, Va., lured two rival sellers to a home, bound them, struck them with a baseball bat and cut them with a knife, and then placed a semi-automatic handgun in a rival’s mouth and warned him about selling false identification documents in Richmond. In November 2010, Millan and a conspirator complained that a rival seller in Nashville, Tenn., continued to operate on their turf even after they had beat him up. Millan instructed his subordinate to find an empty house to take care of the rival, cautioning him to wear gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints and to avoid using a gun which would create too much noise when fired.
Millan tightly controlled the organization’s activities, keeping in regular contact with cell managers about inventory, bi-weekly sales reports and competition. Members who violated internal rules within the operation were subject to discipline, including shaving eyebrows, wearing weights, beatings, and other violent acts.
The organization was discovered through an ongoing investigation dubbed “Operation Phalanx,” and has resulted in 26 convictions since the initial arrests on Nov. 18, 2010.
One alleged conspirator, Edy Oliverez-Jiminez, a/k/a “Daniel,” Erasmo,” “Ulysses,” and “Jesus,” 25, of Virginia Beach, Va., is scheduled for a jury trial that begins Nov. 15, 2011. He is charged in a 10-count indictment that includes the alleged murder, kidnapping, and assault of a rival document vendors in Little Rock, Ark. The public is reminded that criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
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 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.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 http://pacer.uspci.uscourts.gov.