Man who used violence to rule fake document ring gets 25 years
Published: February 16, 2012 Updated: February 16, 2012 – 2:53 PM
A North Carolina man who led U.S. operations in a violent, international fake document ring was sentenced in federal court today to 25 years in prison.
Israel Cruz Millan, 26, also known as “El Muerto,” pleaded guilty in November to charges of racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to produce and transfer false identification documents and conspiring to commit money laundering.
He is one of 27 persons convicted in the ring that had 18 cells in 13 states –- one of them in Richmond.
“He was absolutely the top dog,” said Peter Joseph, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security. “Violence was a tool used to maintain total control,” he said.
According to court documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Millan managed “one of the most expansive –- and certainly one of the most violent –- fraudulent document organizations that law enforcement has ever encountered.”
Prosecutors said Millan oversaw the distribution of 30,000 fraudulent documents including Resident Alien and Social Security cards and other identification to illegal immigrants and sent more than $1 million in profit back to Mexico.
“I believe his name fits him well,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael R. Gill told U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer. “He is El Muerto, The Dead One. He is all about terror.”
Federal sentencing guidelines called for a term of from 19 ½ years to less than 25 years.
Gill sought a 50-year sentence for Millan. In a sentencing memorandum he wrote that “the evidence in this case shows that the defendant exercised absolute and ruthless control over a large-scale and violent criminal enterprise.”
The government had evidence of beatings and other assaults –- including the murder of a 17-year-old in Little Rock, Ark. –- used to maintain discipline within the organization and to combat rival fake document dealers.
Millan’s lawyer, Atchuthan Sriskandarajah, asked for a reduced sentence, arguing that Millan has admitted his guilt, accepted responsibility, regrets his actions and did not have a substantial prior criminal record.
According to court documents, Millan was born in Mexico and grew up in extreme poverty. He was raised primarily by his mother and grandmother in a cramped apartment with no indoor plumbing.
Sriskandarajah wrote that Millan’s only steady job was as a fieldworker in Indiana making $5 an hour. Discouraged by his lack of gainful employment, he succumbed to the temptation of earning money illegally, wrote his lawyer.
Sriskandarajah conceded today that Millan had to pay for his crimes and that the recording of the beating and torture of a gang member by Millan, and others at Millan’s direction, that was played in court Thursday was chilling.
But Sriskandarajah told Spencer that a 50-year sentence would be a life sentence and that Millan deserved a chance at redemption.
Given a chance to make a statement before the sentence was imposed, Millan, speaking through an interpreter, said, “I am truly sorry and I apologize.”
In the end Spencer went slightly over the sentencing guidelines and told Millan, in the U.S. illegally, that he would be deported at the end of his prison term.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with assistance from the Virginia State Police and Chesterfield County Police Department.