When Israel Cruz Millan sensed that competitors were moving in on his thriving criminal enterprise, he stopped at nothing to protect the business, say federal prosecutors quoted by USA Today. A small army of enforcers allegedly carried out savage beatings of rivals, some of whom were bound and gagged prior to assaults that left at least one dead.
The brutal conduct of Millan’s operation bears the hallmarks of international drug and gun trafficking cartels. Prosecutors say Millan’s group dealt in a much more benign product rarely linked to such startling violence: Phony identification cards. Millan and an accused top associate are due today in a Richmond, Va., federal court. The 28-year-old illegal immigrant, also known as “El Muerto” (The Dead One), is charged with managing a far-reaching document fraud business with cells in 19 cities and 11 states that funneled at least $1 million to its top leaders in Mexico. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” said U.S. Attorney Neal MacBride, adding that the enterprise functioned in some ways like a “multinational corporation.”