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Document and Benefit Fraud

Cell leader for fraudulent document ring sentenced to 46 months in prison

RICHMOND, Va. — A Mexican national was sentenced to 46 months in prison for his role as the cell leader of a highly sophisticated and violent fraudulent document trafficking organization. The sentence comes as a result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) into a Mexico-based criminal organization that operated cells in 19 cities and 11 states, including three cells in Virginia.

Ismael Kevin Quintana-Ramirez, 22, who was arrested in November 2010, pleaded guilty on June 10, 2011, to racketeering and conspiracy. As alleged in the indictment and related filings, Quintana-Ramirez was the supervisor for the Fairdale, Ky. cell.

"The sentence handed down today is an indicator of the serious nature of the criminal activity carried out by this individual," said John P. Torres, special agent in charge of the ICE HSI field office in Washington, D.C. "ICE HSI will continue to pursue those who engage in behavior that threatens the safety of our communities and erodes confidence in the legitimacy of our immigration system."

According to the indictment, Israel Cruz Millan, a/k/a "El Muerto," 28, of Raleigh, N.C., managed the organization's operations in the United States, overseeing 19 cells in nearly a dozen states that produced high-quality, false identification cards to illegal aliens. Millan 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 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. The indictment states that from January 2008 through November 2010, members of the organization wired more than $1 million to Mexico.

The indictment alleges that Millan's organization sought to drive competitors from their territory by posing as customers and 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 the indictment states that at least one victim died from the beatings.

Millan is accused of tightly controlling the organization's activities, keeping in regular contact with cell managers about inventory, biweekly sales reports and competition. The indictment alleges that members who violated internal rules within the operation were subject to discipline, including shaving eyebrows, wearing weights, beatings and other violent acts.

Twenty-seven members of the organization were originally arrested on Nov. 18, 2010. To date, 22 of those arrested have pleaded guilty in this case. Five defendants remain pending for trial, which has been scheduled for Oct. 17, 2011.

ICE HSI in Norfolk, Va., investigated the case with assistance from the Virginia State Police and the Chesterfield County Police Department.