|Updated: 10/04/2011 7:40 pm
||Published: 10/04/2011 7:24 pm
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Four men accused of participating in a fake-identification ring that protected its lucrative turf with beatings and at least one slaying pleaded not guilty to racketeering and other charges in federal court on Tuesday.
Among those arraigned were the alleged ring leader, Israel Cruz Millan, 26, of Raleigh, N.C.; and Edy Oliverez-Jiminez, 24; who is charged with kidnapping and killing a rival fake ID seller in Arkansas before relocating to the Virginia Beach area.
"My client maintains he didn't have anything to do with it," Oliverez-Jiminez's attorney, J. Paul Gregorio, said after the arraignment.
Also charged are 35-year-old Armando Gonzalez Medina and 22-year-old Erik Martinez-Ortiz. They are accused of participating in the Richmond and operated in 11 states: Virginia, Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Tennessee.
Speaking through an interpreter, the four men answered a series of routine questions from U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer and asked for a jury trial, which was scheduled for Oct. 17. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gill said the trial could last up to two weeks.
The four are among 30 people who were charged with participating in the ring. Twenty-three have pleaded guilty, two are fugitives and one defendant's identity remains unknown.
According to the indictment, Millan supervised cell managers in 19 U.S. cities. The indictment says those managers oversaw the production of false identification documents, including Social Security and permanent resident alien cards, and supervised "runners" who sold the fake IDs to illegal immigrants for $150 to $250 per set.
Millan is also accused of directing his subordinates to wire more than $1 million to upper management in Mexico from January 2008 through November 2010. Members of the enterprise who violated internal rules were subject to punishment, including shaving of eyebrows, wearing weights and beatings, the indictment says.
Rival document sellers also were beaten, according to prosecutors. The indictment says that in July 2010, Oliverez-Jiminez and unknown conspirators lured a competitor to an abandoned mobile home in Little Rock where he was bound, gagged and blindfolded with duct tape and beaten to death.
Oliverez-Jiminez faces the most serious charges: murder in aid of racketeering, kidnapping in aid of racketeering, assault in aid of racketeering, possessing a gun in furtherance of a violent crime and money laundering conspiracy.
After the hearing, Gregorio filed a motion to strike the murder in aid of racketeering charge, saying the indictment fails to specifically outline the elements of the murder. He also is asking the court to strike the murder as one of the underlying elements of the racketeering charge against Oliverez-Jiminez. Gregorio said the murder element would increase his client's maximum sentence on the racketeering charge from 20 years to life in prison.
All four men are charged with racketeering and conspiracy to produce false identification documents.
Millan also is charged with money laundering conspiracy.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)