RICHMOND, Va. — The leader of a violent fake-identification ring that operated in 11 states pleaded guilty to racketeering and two other charges an hour before his trial was scheduled to begin in federal court Tuesday.
Israel Cruz Millan of Raleigh, N.C., led a fake ID ring enterprise with roots in Mexico that prosecutors say protected its lucrative turf with beatings and at least one slaying. A trial for the man accused of that killing, alleged former Arkansas cell leader Edy Jiminez-Oliverez, began Tuesday as scheduled.
“There are a number of document rings operating around the country,” John Torres, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, said in a telephone interview. “We don’t see many resorting to this level of violence.”
Thirty people originally were charged in the case. Twenty-six have pleaded guilty, two are fugitives and the identity of one remains unknown.
Millan, 26, will be sentenced Feb. 16 after pleading guilty to racketeering, conspiracy to produce false identification documents and money laundering.
“Today’s plea is a result of the tremendous efforts of ICE agents who discovered and helped to dismantle this brutal organization,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a written statement.
According to the indictment, Millan supervised cell managers in 19 cities in Virginia, Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Tennessee. The indictment says those managers oversaw the production of false identification documents, including Social Security and permanent resident alien cards, and supervised “runners” who sold the bogus IDs to illegal immigrants for $150 to $250 per set.
“They really ran this like a business and used a business model where people would be promoted based on the amount of money they brought in,” Torres said.
Millan was accused of directing his subordinates to wire more than $1 million to upper management in Mexico from January 2008 through November 2010. Members of the enterprise who violated internal rules were subject to punishment, including shaving of eyebrows, wearing weights and beatings.
Rival document sellers also were assaulted, according to prosecutors. The indictment says that in July 2010, Oliverez-Jiminez and unknown conspirators lured a competitor to an abandoned mobile home in Little Rock, Ark., where he was bound, gagged and blindfolded with duct tape and beaten to death. Oliverez-Jiminez later relocated to the Virginia Beach area.
Oliverez-Jiminez, 24, faces charges of racketeering, conspiracy to produce false identification documents, murder in aid of racketeering, kidnaping in aid of racketeering, assault in aid of racketeering, possessing a gun in furtherance of a violent crime and money laundering conspiracy.
Torres said the fact that only one defendant chose to go to trial “represents how airtight this case really is.”