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Transnational Gangs
09/09/2011

HSI dismantles '18th Street' gang's fraudulent document ring

NEW YORK - Eighteen individuals - including 14 with ties to a violent street gang - were arrested in an operation Wednesday on charges of supplying fraudulent government identity documents to individuals. These charges stem from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

"The individuals arrested today are alleged to have masterminded a ruthless criminal street gang operation that preyed on New York's most vulnerable communities," said James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent in charge of HSI in New York. "HSI is dedicating more resources than ever to combat street-based, violent, criminal organizations."

"These arrests are the result of a fifteen-month undercover investigation that included months of court-authorized wiretaps and hundreds of intercepted telephone calls," said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. "All but two of the defendants are accused of papering the streets of our city with phony government identification documents that allowed individuals to obtain employment, operate motor vehicles, receive government benefits and open lines of credit, as well as providing a source of identification. The widespread black market trafficking of such bogus documents that can easily be used by terrorists undermines the efforts of homeland security and other law enforcement officials intent on keeping our borders and citizens safe. Such a serious threat to public safety cannot go unchallenged. We will continue to work closely with the NYPD and our other law enforcement colleagues to stamp out such fraud and help to maintain the safety and security of our City and State."

"Fake identification mills not only produce tools for fraud, but even worse, they can facilitate serious security breaches, which jeopardize lives," said NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. "I commend the NYPD Gang Division, the Department of Homeland Security and the Queens District Attorney's Office for arresting these individuals and shutting down this fraudulent identification mill."

The case leading to these arrests began in June 2010 when the NYPD's Manhattan Gang Squad started an investigation into a forged document organization allegedly based in Queens, N.Y., and operated by various members of the M18 street gang. The M18 street gang, also known as "Mara 18" and the "18th Street" gang, is a transnational gang with origins in Mexico and California.

Such operations are focused around a mill, where all the forged documents are manufactured. A typical mill can produce more than 40 forged documents in less than two hours. They employ a boss who manages the mill, street sellers who deal directly with the buyers and obtain the photographs and personal information that are to be placed on the forged documents, runners who pick up orders and deliver them to the mill, and cutters who produce the documents. The typical street price for a Social Security card is $40 and a resident alien card costs $60.

As part of the investigation, six individuals who are believed to be part of the forged document organization were arrested in Queens last month and charged with second and third degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. They include: Miklo Telles-Juarez, Carlos A. Jimenez, Kevin Guzman, Francisco Navor, Margarito Ortega and Mauricio Calderon. They produced false identification, either a forged Mexican driver's license or a forged Mexican voter identification card, when asked by police for identification.

A seventh individual, David Gomez, was allegedly in possession of a sum of cash, a forged Social Security card and a forged U.S. permanent resident card. Each had the name, "Alberto Tzunun," and a small photograph of a male individual that was identical to the photograph on the forged resident card.

Also, it is alleged that, on Aug. 30, 2011, Jorge Ganchozo entered a restaurant at 77-04 Roosevelt Ave. carrying a folded piece of white paper and sat at a table with two other individuals, Pascual Mejia and Manuel Tzep Cuc. Ganchozo allegedly extended his hand with the folded piece of paper toward Mejia and Mejia. In return, he received a sum of money. At the time of Ganchozo's arrest, police allegedly recovered the folded piece of paper which contained one forged U.S. Social Security card bearing the name, "Mateo Benjamin Garcia," and a forged U.S. permanent resident card bearing the name, "Garcia, Mateo Benjamin" and a photograph of Cuc in the same clothes he was wearing that day.

Two search warrants were executed Wednesday at 37-58 79th Ave. at the residence of Roberto Contreras and Daniel Gonzales. The other search warrant was executed at 79-18 32nd Ave. at the residence of Jose Figueroa and his wife, Guadalupe Ortega. Numerous items were recovered, including forged documents, forgery devices, computers, storage media and narcotics.

In addition to the arrest of Contreras, Gonzales, Figueroa and Ortega, four other individuals, Orlando Martinez, Johnny Lopez, Marco Vidal and Juan Gabriel Hernandez, were taken into custody.

* Miklos Telles-Juarez, 20, of 45-05 Junction Blvd. in Queens, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* Carlos A. Jimenez, 23, of 104-17 37th Drive in Queens, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* David Gomez, 34, of 37-53 72nd Street in Queens, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, and fourth-degree criminal sale of marijuana. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* Kevin Guzman, 23, of 95-12 51st Ave. in Queens, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and fourth-degree criminal sale of marijuana. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* Francisco Navor, 23, of 42-43 Ketcham Street in Queens, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, and fourth-degree criminal sale of marijuana. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* Margarito Ortega, 24, of 41-19 Hampton Street in Queens, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, and fourth-degree criminal sale of marijuana. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* Mauricio Calderon, 22, of 35-44 77th Street in Queens, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, and fourth-degree criminal sale of marijuana. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* Jorge Ganchozo, 33, of 2120 Randall Ave. in the Bronx, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

Pascual Mejia, 42, of 2022 West 6th Street in Brooklyn, is charged with second- and third- degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and attempted second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

Manuel Tzep Cuc, 18, of 2042 West 8th Street in Brooklyn, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and attempted second- and third- degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* Roberto Contreras, 22, of 79-18 32nd Ave. in Queens, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and criminal possession of forgery devices. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* Daniel Gonzales, 26, of 79-18 32nd Ave. in Queens, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and criminal possession of forgery devices. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* Orlando Martinez, 23, of 4316 Hunts Point Ave. in the Bronx, is charged with second-degree forgery and fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* Johnny Lopez, 28, of 35-50 90th Street in Queens, is charged with second-degree forgery, second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

* Marco Vidal, 23, of 514 West 170th Street in Manhattan is charged with second-degree attempted forgery and fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.

* Juan Gabriel Hernandez, 36, of 35-43 98th Street in Queens, is charged with second-degree forgery and fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

Jose Figueroa, 30, 37-58 79th Street in Queens, is charged with second-degree forgery, second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal possession of forgery devices, fifth-degree conspiracy, seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.

Guadalupe Ortega, 29, of 37-58 79th Street in Queens, is charged with second- and third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal possession of forgery devices, seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted, she faces up to seven years in prison.

* Defendant is an alleged member of the M18 Street Gang.