Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and John P. Torres, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer.
“Israel Cruz Millan exercised absolute and ruthless control over a large-scale and violent fraudulent document cartel,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “In a few short years, his network distributed more than 30,000 fake IDs and funneled more than $1 million to organized crime bosses in Mexico. Today’s sentence is just punishment for a savage leader who helped export crime and violence into the United States.” “Justice has been served today with the sentencing of Israel Cruz Millan, who led a dangerous and violent criminal enterprise throughout the United States,” said ICE-HSI Special Agent in Charge Torres. “HSI is committed to pursuing criminal enterprises engaged in the production of fake documents, which poses a serious threat to national security. The fact that this organization also used intimidation and murder to maintain its dominance in this illicit business made this case an even greater priority for HSI.” According to evidence presented during the trial of co-conspirator Edy Oliverez-Jiminez in November 2011, Israel Cruz Millan, aka “El Muerto,” 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 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. In addition, from January 2008 through November 2010, members of the organization wired more than $1 million to Mexico. 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. During today’s sentencing hearing, the United States presented evidence regarding Cruz Millan’s efforts in planning violent attacks against competitors in Covington, Ky.; Boston; and Nashville, Tenn.
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. During today’s sentencing hearing, 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 on Oct. 29, 2010, in Raleigh, N.C. 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, a warning of what would happen if they were caught stealing from the criminal organization. The testimony and intercepted calls documented that the victim was not only beaten, but also subjected to electric shocks administered by placing the victim’s feet in a bucket of water and electrocuting him with jumper cables attached to a car battery.
In entering a guilty plea to the racketeering, fraudulent document and money laundering conspiracy charges, Cruz Millan admitted to being the overall supervisor of the criminal enterprise within the United States.
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, 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. Oliverez-Jiminez is scheduled to be sentenced on March 2, 2012. 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.
The investigation was led by the ICE-HSI Norfolk, Va., office. ICE-HSI received assistance from the FBI, Virginia State Police and Chesterfield County, Va., Police Department. Assistant U.S. 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.