WASHINGTON More than 20 members of a network that allegedly forged documents for illegal immigrants and engaged in kidnapping, beating and murder to protect its turf have been indicted for racketeering, officials said on Thursday.
The indictments of 22 individuals by a federal grand jury in Richmond, Virginia followed an investigation into a Mexico-based crime ring with cells in 19 cities, statements from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said.
ICE said "Operation Phalanx" exposed a highly sophisticated and violent fraudulent document trafficking organization.
"The indictment portrays a deadly criminal organization that uses brutal violence to eliminate rivals, protect its turf and enforce discipline against its own members," said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride.
"Thanks to the tremendous effort of ICE agents here in our District and throughout the country, we were able to bring these charges, expose the brutality behind this document cartel, and dismantle the organization."
According to a 12-count indictment, the organization produced high-quality false identification cards for illegal aliens, and wired more than $1 million in revenue to Mexico from 2008 to late November 2010, when 28 suspected members were arrested and charged with conspiracy to produce and transfer false identification and money laundering.
The 22 individuals indicted for racketeering were among the 28 arrested in November.
Raleigh, North Carolina resident Israel Cruz Millan, a.k.a "El Muerto," 28, is accused as managing the U.S. operations the government says sold counterfeit resident alien and social security cards for between $150 and $200.
(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Jerry Norton)