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April 2, 07

NEWS / Man Is Accused of Producing Fake Immigrant IDs

An Oak Lawn man and his wife, along with 20 others, were arrested last week on federal charges.

The arrests took place April 24 at the Little Village Discount Mall, at 26th Street and Albany, in Chicago.

Julio Leija-Sanchez, 28, of Oak Lawn, has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States and participating in a 3 1/2-year conspiracy to illegally produce identification documents, authentication features and false identification documents.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in a wiretapped phone conversation on April 3, Leija-Sanchez discussed killing two competitors believed to be in Mexico named “Montes” and “Bruno.”

In all, 22 were arrested at the Discount Mall in Little Village.

Allegedly, technical support and supplies came primarily through sources in Mexico, to Leija-Sanchez’s wife, Caterina Zapien-Ruiz, 28.

Law enforcement officials believe the organization sold as many as 50 to 100 sets of fraudulent identification documents each day, charging customers approximately $200 to $300 per set.

A set consists of a Social Security card and either an Immigration “green card” or a state driver’s license.

According to authorities, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, FBI and Secret Service agents executed search warrants in which fraudulent identification documents were discovered.

Authorities also seized two computer towers, printers, scanners, a cutting board, hundreds of blank identification cards, including Social Security cards, and approximately $1,300 in cash.

The residences of Leija-Sanchez and another alleged cell leader, Elias Marquez, 51, of Chicago, were searched, and two laptop computers and about $200,000 in cash were seized.

According to authorities, Leija-Sanchez assumed control of the organization after his brother, Manuel Leija-Sanchez, 40, who is among the 22 charged, was deported in May 2006.

The Discount Mall was shut down while investigators conducted a search of the mall and arrested those accused of wrongdoing.

“These ICE arrests represent a significant setback to one of the largest and most sophisticated illegal document fraud rings in the United States,” said Elisa Brown, Special Agent-in-Charge of from the ICE Office of Investigations.

According to an affidavit, eight to 10 street vendors were employed per shift in the parking lot of and inside the Discount Mall, with two shifts per day — from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 1:30 to 8 p.m.

People who have alleged to have bought phony identification cards are individuals from many races and nationalities.

“Criminals and even terrorists can use fraudulent documents to conceal themselves in our society, which pose a major homeland security vulnerability,” said Brown.

Tags: document,


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