RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Murder, torture, wire taps, we want to warn you some of the details we've uncovered are graphic. A violent illegal document ring was operating right here in central Virginia.
Mexican crime bosses planted men inside the US to make and sell fake documents. A big business that offered US privileges, without the citizenship. They sold over 30,000 fake ID's, social security cards, driver's licenses and green cards. Using Western Union, they funneled more than a million dollars to organized crime bosses in Mexico.
"We have not seen in Virginia a gang that was this big, this sophisticated this violent, that would engage in unspeakable acts of violence," said US Attorney Neil MacBride. His team prosecuted the cases in Richmond Federal court.
This gang used intimidation and force to protect its turf and to take out rivals. They would pose as customers looking for fake documents.
They lured two competitors inside a trailer in Little Rock, Arkansas. The men were bound, eyes covered with duct tape, and beaten. A 17-year old died.
MacBride said Richmond Judge Henry Hudson told his prosecutors this was, "The most god awful, horrific brutal homicide he'd ever seen." MacBride went on to say, "This from a judge who's been in law enforcement for 30 years."
The fraudulent document ring operated in 11 states and 19 cities including cells in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Manassas, and Richmond.
In June of 2009 the violence spread to Chesterfield. Two rival fake document makers were lured to a house on Folkstone Drive. Inside they were tortured. There hands and feet were bound by duct tape. They were beaten with baseball bats and cut with a knife.
The barrel of a semi automatic hand gun was shoved in one victim's mouth and he was told:
"Basically that they would not be operating in their area anymore and they made their point very clear," said Michael Lamonea with Homeland Security Investigations.
The conversations and secret snapshots were taken over the course of a year long investigation by Home Land Security, Immigration, and state and local police.
"This was a gang that was absolutely committed and disciplined to make as much money as they could," said MacBride.
The evidence we present to you is from the murder trial for Edy Oliverez-Jimenez the Virginia cell leader.
Back in 2010, an apartment on Melmark Road was at the center of the Richmond investigation. This is where they made many of the fake documents for central Virginia. The feds seized computers, printers and boxes of cards.
MacBride said the whole operation was a threat to national security.
"We know from the 911 case that a number of the high jackers were able to obtain fake id's, driver's licenses in various states."
He said these fakes were good and are out there now — helping people avoid detection. MacBride said there's only a few reasons someone would want a fake ID.
"They've committed a crime. They want to commit a crime. They may be in the in the country illegally. Their doing something to hide their identity."
The violence came to a head on October 29, 2010. The feds intercepted a phone call and listened in live. The gang's leader, Israel Cruz Millan, called El Muerto or "the dead one", organized a conference call.
The call: "We have him here and we are beating him up."
Every one of Millan's cells was listening in — including Richmond. A man in Raleigh, North Carolina was again duct taped. His feet were put water. He was attached to a car battery, then beaten and electrocuted.
Agents listening in live actually jeopardized their case and sent local police to save the man's life.
"There was a swift response and ultimately the individual was able to make it out of their safe," said Lamonea.
The haunting call, meant as a message: this is what happens if you cross them.
In all, 30 people have been convicted. El Muerto, the ring leader, is serving 25 years in prison.