- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2007

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have disrupted a counterfeit identification document ring in Chicago that generated up to $3 million a year in profits, accusing one suspect of killing two men for stealing computers used to make the phony documents.

ICE spokeswoman Kadia H. Koroma said agents have charged 22 persons suspected of being gang members. Among them, Julio Leija-Sanchez is accused of paying $3,000 and conspiring with Gerardo Salazar-Rodriguez, a fugitive thought to be in Mexico, and others to kill the two competitors.

Ms. Koroma said Mr. Leija-Sanchez, 31, of Oak Lawn, Ill., was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States, with more than a dozen pages of a 113-page ICE affidavit detailing a series of telephone calls in which Mr. Leija-Sanchez discussed killing the two men, identified as “Montes” and “Bruno.”

The conversations, she said, were among numerous calls that ICE agents intercepted using court-authorized wiretaps since February, during the final months of the investigation code-named Operation Paper Tiger, which began in late 2003.

“Fraudulent documents are a favored method of terrorists and criminals for gaining entry into the United States to carry out their illegal activities,” said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads ICE.

Based on undercover purchases and information from cooperating sources, Ms. Koroma said the organization sold 50 to 100 sets of fraudulent identification documents daily, charging about $200 to $300 per set. A set consisted of a Social Security card and either an Immigration green card or a state driver’s license.

Ms. Koroma said the 22 persons have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to illegally produce identification documents, authentication features and false identification documents.

A dozen suspects were arrested this week in Chicago. The other 10 are fugitives, four of whom are thought to be in Mexico.

According to an ICE affidavit, the fraudulent document operation originated in Mexico and is affiliated with a Mexican family named Castorena-Ibarra. ICE agents say the gang has produced false documents in several U.S. cities, including Denver, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Ms. Koroma said the investigation found that the gang made millions of dollars each year in Chicago alone by recruiting illegal aliens to sell false documents on street corners in the city.

In just one location, Ms. Koroma said, as many as 20 illegal aliens sold false documents at any one time.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide