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Document and Benefit Fraud

Member of complex and violent fraudulent document ring sentenced

RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia man was sentenced Friday to 108 months in prison for his participation in a highly sophisticated and violent fraudulent document trafficking organization, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Erik Martinez-Ortiz, age 20, of Richmond, Va., had pleaded guilty to participating in a racketeering conspiracy and admitted to being a member of the Richmond cell of a fraudulent document trafficking organization based in Mexico, which was made up of cells in 19 U.S. cities in 11 states, including three cells in Virginia.

Martinez-Ortiz was also illegally residing in the country and will be removed from the United States by ICE after serving his prison sentence.

According to evidence presented during the trial of co-conspirator Edy Oliverez-Jimnez in November 2011, 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 that produced high-quality false identification cards distributed to illegal aliens. In each city where the organization operated, Millan placed a cell manager to supervise a number of "runners," the lower level members of the organization 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. In addition, from January 2008 through November 2010, members of the organization wired more than $1 million to Mexico.

Evidence during the Oliverez-Jiminez trial detailed how members of the organization sought to drive competitors from their territory by posing as customers in search of fraudulent documents and then 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 at least one victim died from one such attack that occurred in Little Rock, Ark., on July 6, 2010.

The United States further alleged at trial that Millan tightly controlled the organization's activities by keeping in regular contact with cell managers about fraudulent document inventory, bi-weekly sales reports and the presence of any rival document vendors. Members of the organization who violated internal rules imposed by Millan 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, 26 of those arrested have pled guilty in this case. On Nov. 29, 2011, the remaining charged defendant, Edy Oliverez-Jiminez, was convicted by a jury for racketeering conspiracy; murder, kidnapping and assault in aid of racketeering; conspiracy to possess, produce and transfer false identification documents; and money laundering conspiracy.

The investigation was led by the HSI office in Norfolk office, which falls under the Washington, D.C., office. HSI received assistance from the FBI, Virginia State Police and Chesterfield County Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Gill and Angela Mastandrea-Miller and Trial Attorney Addison Thompson, of the Criminal Division's Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.