RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia-based cell manager of a Mexican fraudulent document trafficking organization was convicted by a federal jury of luring rival document vendors to an empty trailer house in Little Rock, Ark., beating one to death and abandoning another individual bound and seriously injured. He fled Little Rock and relocated to Virginia Beach, Va., to avoid law enforcement investigations into the July 2010 murder. The investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Edy Oliverez-Jiminez, 25, aka Daniel, Erasmo, Ulysses, and Jesus, of Virginia Beach, Va., was found guilty of racketeering, murder, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to produce and transfer false identification documents. He was acquitted on two counts each of assault and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. The verdict was accepted by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison when he is sentenced on March 2, 2012.
"We have never seen a document fraud case like this anywhere in the nation - a group so organized and so intent on profiting from fake IDs that they stopped at nothing to take out their rivals," said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride. "Mr. Oliverez-Jiminez was convicted of literally kidnapping and murdering the gang's competition in an effort to expand their own market share. Thanks to the tremendous effort of ICE HSI agents throughout the country, we were able to secure this and the dozens of other convictions, expose the brutality behind this Mexican-based document cartel, and dismantle the organization."
"For members of this brutal criminal organization, violence and murder was a standard part of their illicit business practices," said John P. Torres, special agent in charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations office in Washington, D.C. "Bringing these kinds of violent individuals and enterprises to justice is a priority for HSI. We will continue our relentless pursuit of dangerous criminal organizations operating in our communities, in a coordinated effort with our law enforcement partners."
After a three-week trial, Oliverez-Jiminez was convicted Tuesday of managing cells in Little Rock and Virginia Beach that produced high-quality false identification cards to illegal aliens. He 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 from $150 to $200.
The organization had cells in 18 cities and 11 states, including three cells in Virginia. Each cell maintained detailed sales records and divided the proceeds between the runner, the cell manager, and the upper level managers in Mexico. From January 2008 through November 2010, members of the organization wired more than $1 million to Mexico.
In July 2010, Oliverez-Jiminez and others identified a competitor who was selling false identification documents in the Little Rock area and developed a plan to use violence to deter him from selling in their area. Posing as a potential client, a conspirator placed a call to the rival and arranged to meet him and an associate at an abandoned trailer house. When the rival entered the home, Oliverez-Jiminez and a group of Hispanic males attacked him, binding his feet, mouth and eyes with duct tape. The rival's associate was also brought inside, bound with duct tape, and beaten by the attackers. Both men were left bound on the floor, and the rival was pronounced dead at the scene of the attack. According to the Arkansas deputy chief medical examiner, he died of asphysixia, blunt-enforced trauma, and blood loss.
By August 2010, Oliverez-Jiminez had relocated to Virginia Beach, where he set up another cell for the organization, which operated until his arrest in November 2010. According to wire intercepts admitted as evidence at trial, he planned another violent attack of a competitor for Sept. 18, 2010.
Throughout the conspiracy, Oliverez-Jiminez worked under Israel Cruz Millan, aka El Muerto, 26, of Raleigh, N.C., who led the organization in the United States and reported to leaders in Mexico. Millan pleaded guilty on Nov. 15 to racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to produce and transfer false identification documents, and conspiring to commit money laundering.
Testimony at trial showed that in June 2009, members of Millan's organization in Richmond lured two rival sellers to a home, bound them, struck them with a baseball bat and cut them with a knife, and then placed a semi-automatic handgun in a rival's mouth and warned him about selling false identification documents in Richmond. In November 2010, Millan and a conspirator complained that a rival seller in Nashville, Tenn., continued to operate on their turf even after they had beat him up. Millan instructed his subordinate to find an empty house to take care of the rival, cautioning him to wear gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints and to avoid using a gun which would create too much noise when fired.
Millan tightly controlled the organization's activities, keeping in regular contact with Oliverez-Jiminez and other cell managers about inventory, bi-weekly sales reports and competition. Members who violated internal rules within the operation were subject to discipline, including shaving eyebrows, wearing weights, beatings, and other violent acts.
The organization was discovered through an ongoing investigation dubbed "Operation Phalanx," and has resulted in 27 convictions since the initial arrests on Nov. 18, 2010.
The investigation was centered in the Norfolk ICE HSI office. ICE HSI received assistance from the Virginia State Police and Chesterfield County Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Gill and Angela Miller and Trial Attorney Addison Thompson, of the Criminal Division's Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, are prosecuting the case.