A federal grand jury in Richmond has indicted 22 members of an allegedly highly sophisticated and violent fraudulent document trafficking organization based in Mexico with cells in 19 cities and 11 states, including three cells in Virginia.
Discovered through an ongoing investigation dubbed “Operation Phalanx,” the organization is accused of kidnapping, beating and – at least on one occasion – murdering competitors and using violence to discipline its own members.
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 to 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 cecurity 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.
The indictment alleges that Cruz Millan’s organization sought to drive competitors from their territory by posing as customers and attacking them 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 the indictment states that at least one victim died from the beatings.