CHICAGO — Two brothers who operated a black-market fake identification ring will spend the rest of their lives in prison after being sentenced Friday by a federal judge, the Justice Department said Friday.
Julio and Manuel Leija-Sanchez ran the lucrative and violent fake ID ring near a Little Village shopping center at West 26th Street and Albany Avenue for at least 15 years, according to a Dept. of Justice news release. They were arrested as part of a federal investigation called Operation Paper Tiger, which in 2007 resulted in charges against 24 other defendants, including the father of Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd).
The brothers were convicted last year alongside Gerardo Salazar-Rodriguez, whom they ordered to murder a pair of former employees who sought to open a competing business, the release said. Salazar-Rodriguez also faces life imprisonment and will be sentenced Feb. 14.
“Julio and Manuel Leija-Sanchez were the kingpins of a decades-long, multimillion-dollar international criminal organization and they killed to protect their own pocketbook and the empire they built,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Nasser said in a statement.
Evidence at the trial showed the Leija-Sanchez brothers operated a "bustling" business near the Little Village mall between 1993 and 2007. The business sold as many as 100 sets of fraudulent identification documents a day at about $200 per set. The sets included a Social Security card and either a green card or state driver's license.
Prosecutors said Salazar-Rodriguez, on the orders the brothers, fired more than a dozen shots when he killed Guillermo "Montes" Jimenez-Flores in Mexico City in 2007. The jury heard transcripts of phone calls intercepted by investigators in which Salazar-Rodriguez told the brothers Jimenez-Flores, who used to work with them, was dead.
Another former employee, Bruno Freddy Ramirez-Camela, escaped harm as he was in federal custody in Chicago and cooperating with investigators.
A third brother, Pedro Leija-Sanchez, 41, was arrested in Mexico in 2011; he pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in 2012 and was sentenced to 20 years last March.