28th Member of Sophisticated, Violent Fraudulent Document Ring Convicted
RICHMOND, Va. –An additional member of a highly sophisticated and violent fraudulent document trafficking organization based in Mexico pled guilty today to his role in the operation. Earlier today, Jose Sanchez-Herrera, age 32, of Richmond, Virginia, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Possess, Produce, and Transfer False Identification Documents and Possess a Document-Making Implement, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028(f). Sanchez-Herrera will be sentenced by Judge James R. Spencer on October 29, 2012, and faces a maximum of 15 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years of Supervised Release.
Neil H. MacBride, United States 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 ICE HSI field office in Washington, D.C., announced the plea.
Sanchez-Herrera was a member of a large, highly sophisticated, and extremely violent organization that provided fraudulent identity documentation to illegal aliens. The organization, based in Mexico, had cells in 19 United States cities across 11 states. There were 3 cells in Virginia.
In 2010, Sanchez-Herrera served as a “runner” for the Richmond cell of the organization. In that capacity, he advertised the organization’s services and helped facilitate the sale of fraudulent documents to illegal alien customers. Specifically, Sanchez-Herrera would recruit illegal alien clients who wished to obtain false identification documents, including counterfeit Permanent Resident Alien Cards (also known as “Green Cards”) and Social Security Cards. Upon identifying a specific client, Sanchez-Herrera would relay identifying information and photographs from the client to the manager of the document production center. The manager, in turn, would use a computer and printer to create the fraudulent identification documents for the client. Once the documents were complete, Sanchez-Herrera would usually provide the documents to the client in exchange for United States currency. A client would generally pay $200 for a set of fraudulent identification documents. The defendant would keep a portion of the money for payment and would pass the rest on to the manager of the cell location. A signification portion of the proceeds generated by the criminal enterprise were sent back to the upper managers in Mexico via Western Union wire transfer. The investigation revealed that from January 2008 through November 2010, members of the organization wired more than $1 million to Mexico.
The evidence presented during the trial of co-conspirator Edy Oliverez-Jimnez in November 2011, detailed the overall structure and extreme violence connected to this criminal enterprise. Israel Cruz Millan, a/k/a “El Muerto,” managed the organization’s operations in the United States. In each city where the organization operated, Millan placed a cell manager to supervise the “runners,” including Sanchez-Herrera in Richmond. 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 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 in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 6, 2010.
Cruz Millan also 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. During trial, the United States presented evidence regarding Cruz Millan’s orchestration of the kidnapping, beating, and torture of an enterprise member who was suspected of stealing from the organization. The event occurred in October 29, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The evidence presented included wire tap calls during which Cruz Millan conducted a “conference call” with other cell leaders around the United States so they could hear the torture as it took place, sending a message to other enterprise members about what would happen if they were caught stealing from the criminal organization. In addition to the beating, the testimony and intercepted calls depicted how the victim was subjected to electric shocks administered by placing the his feet in a bucket of water and electrocuting him with jumper cables attached to a car battery.
Counting Sanchez-Herrera’s guilty plea, twenty-eight members of the organization charged in the Richmond, Virginia federal case have been convicted. In addition, two other defendants have been convicted in related cases in the Eastern District of Virginia, along with others who have been charged and convicted in other districts across the country. On February 16, 2012, United States District Judge James R. Spencer sentenced Cruz Millan to 300 months’ imprisonment. On March 2, 2012, United States District Judge Henry E. Hudson sentenced Oliverez-Jiminez to two consecutive life terms in prison, after having been convicted by a jury for racketeering, murder, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to produce and transfer false identification documents.
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
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.
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