At 24, Ivan Zarate Curi was the leader of the Nashville cell of a “highly sophisticated” and violent fake ID ring. The last member to plead, Zarate Curi was sentenced to six years in prison on Tuesday after he pled guilty in a Virginia court to participating in a racketeering conspiracy.
The organization, based in Mexico, has cells in 19 cities in 11 states. Three cells are based in Virginia. Zarate Curi and 27 others were arrested in 2010 after a multi-state Department of Homeland Security investigation. Twenty-six of the members have pled guilty.
Court documents and evidence presented in the trial of a co-conspirator and the only member not to plead, Edy Oliverez-Jiminez, detailed the organization’s U.S. operations and the sophistication of the illegal business. He was convicted in November.
The operation ran like a legit business. The group created counterfeit Resident Alien and Social Security cards and sold them for $150 to $200 each. Cell mangers provided regular sales reports, kept detailed product inventory, and kept tabs on the competition.
Posing as fake ID secret shoppers, members would seek out competition then ambush them. “These attacks allegedly included binding the victims’ hands, feet and mouth; repeatedly beating them; and threatening them with death if they continued to sell false identification documents in the area,” according to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. At least one victim died after an ambush.
“Members of the organization who violated internal rules … were subject to discipline, including shaving eyebrows, wearing weights, beatings, and other violent acts,” according to the release.
A 2009 study published by the Center for Immigration Studies estimated that 75 percent of working-age illegal aliens use fraudulent Social Security cards to obtain employment. Court documents show that between 2008 and 2010, the U.S. cells wired more than one million dollars to Mexico.
photo: Henrique Vicente/flickr