A violent criminal ring that sold fraudulent documents to illegal immigrants had operations that reached into the Myrtle Beach area, according to a newly-released indictment.
The indictment made public by the U.S. attorney's office in Richmond, VA, charged 22 people with operating a Mexico-based ring that sold driver's licenses, Social Security cards, green cards and other fake documentation in several states.
The indictment shows Juan Arroyo-Pantoja managed the Wilmington, NC cell in October and November of last year. It says Arroyo-Pantoja worked under the supervision of Israel Cruz Millan, or "El Muerto", who was based in Raleigh. El Muerto is Spanish for "the dead one".
As part of the crackdown, Victor Roa-Alzua, who lived on Moonlight Drive in Myrtle Beach, was arrested for the sale and manufacture of fraudulent documents. Three other Mexican nationals were arrested and placed into removal proceedings the same day. Immigration officials say the judicial process is ongoing for all those suspects.
According to the indictment, the Wilmington cell took in nearly $5,000 over a two-week period from sales in Wilmington and Myrtle Beach.Immigration officials said the charges stemmed from an ongoing investigation dubbed "Operation Phalanx". The criminal ring is accused of kidnapping, beating and even murdering competitors and using violence to discipline its own members.
"The indictment portrays a deadly criminal organization that uses brutal violence to eliminate rivals, protect its turf and enforce discipline against its own members," said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride in a press release.
According to the indictment, Arroyo-Pantoja and other members of the Wilmington cell were arrested last November and had possession of equipment used for producing fake documents, including a computer, 15 cell phones, card stock for producing IDs, ink cartridges and a card printer. It says Arroyo-Pantoja supervised a number of "runners", who recruited clients for the operation.
During the investigation, ring members sold counterfeit Social Security cards and green cards to undercover officers for about $150 to $250.
Prosecutors say the cells sent more than $1 million to Mexico from January 2008 to November 2010.
To read the press release from the United State's Attorney's Office, click here.