Friday, October 26, 2007

Counterfeit Document Gang Jefe(s) "Chiefs" charged with murder, racketeering and conspiracy

Recent picture of Suad Leija taken at an undisclosed location. Although not mentioned in many of the articles about this arrest, Suad is responsible for providing a lot of the information used in this latest indictment. Her story has been covered in the mainstream media by Lou Dobbs, Paula Zahn, Fox, CNN, La Opinion and Univision.

Operation Paper Tiger, the federal investigation into the organized trade in counterfeit documents has resulted in the arrest of three of the Jefes (Chiefs) of the largest organized gang (the Castorena Leija-Sanchez organization) involved in the trade.

Also arrested was one of the hit-men associated with the gang. The latest charges include murder, racketeering and conspiracy. These charges have been added to previous charges (already) filed regarding the organized counterfeiting of identification documents by the organization.

All 23 defendants arrested thus far are from the Castorena Leija-Sanchez counterfeit document organization. Three of the people arrested include Manuel Leija-Sanchez, Pedro Leija-Sanchez and Julio Leija Sanchez -- three brothers who allegedly are in control of the organization throughout the United States and Mexico.

There is a lot of evidence that this organized gang, which the government describes as International in nature, is responsible for providing counterfeit documents to ANYONE with the money to buy them. This would include not only millions of illegal immigrants, but a LOT of criminals and potentially, even terrorists.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced the indictment of the three leaders of this cartel in a press release:

Federal racketeering conspiracy and murder-related charges were added against three brothers – now all in custody and charged together for the first time – and their alleged “hitman” in Mexico to a pending indictment resulting from the dismantling in April of an international counterfeit identification document business that allegedly generated profits between $2.5 million and $3 million a year in Chicago’s Little Village Community. Manuel Leija-Sanchez, 40, who was arrested in Mexico last Friday, and his brother, Pedro Leija-Sanchez, 35, who was arrested in Mexico in August, are facing extradition to the United States. Together with a third brother, Julio Leija-Sanchez, 31, who was arrested in Chicago in April, the three are among a total of 23 defendants facing charges in Chicago as part of Operation Paper Tiger, an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Also facing extradition from Mexico is the alleged hit-man, Gerardo Salazar-Rodriguez, 34, who was charged previously and was arrested in Augustin Mexico, federal law enforcement officials announced today.

Not mentioned in the press release, or most of the news articles, I saw appear on this story is the fact that most of this was made possible by a young woman by the name of Suad Leija.

Suad Leija is the step-daughter of Manuel Leija-Sanchez -- who has been providing information to the authorities about the gang's inner-operations and identifying members -- previously unknown to law enforcement.

The Chicago Tribune (Antonio Olivo) was the one mainstream source, I'm aware of, who refers to Suad's involvement in the case. I've also been told by Suad's husband that she has completed two recent interviews with Univision and was featured on the Minutemen Project the other day.

Suad started providing information on the organization after discovering her husband was trying to gather intelligence on potential terrorists, who the organization had provided with counterfeit documents. This led to her having to make a hard choice, which was whether to side with her family, or her husband. Suad chose her husband after being educated on the dangers this trade poses to the United States.

I would have to speculate that a lot of evidence used to arrest Manuel, Pedro and Julio was obtained as a result of information Suad has provided to the authorities.

If one refers to the Paper Weapons site, it also shows that the earnings of this cartel are a lot higher than $2.5 - 3.0 million allegedly earned by the Chicago cell of the organization. The figure quoted on the site is actually closer to $300 million. This figure includes the earnings of the numerous cells of the organization, which are located in cities throughout the country and operated as franchises.

Suad's story has been well-documented by mainstream media types, such as Lou Dobbs, Paula Zahn, Fox, CNN, Univision and La Raza. She has also produced a series of YouTube videos, which reveal why she decided to educate the public on how counterfeit documents are actually "paper weapons."

Interestingly enough, her story has been covered extensively in the Spanish media. One reason for this might be that pending legislation will force employers to respond to no-match social security numbers. Because of this, legal Hispanic identities will likely be targeted for identity theft purposes. In the past, making up a name was sufficient to pass muster for employment purposes.

Suad and her husband have written a novel describing the full detail of their involvement in Operation Paper Tiger, which is currently only available from the Paper Weapons site. This book reveals what might be at stake if we continue to allow criminals to control our borders.

Included in the book are transcripts from actual wire-taps, many of which, tie into this most recent indictment.

They are currently writing another novel, which will detail Suad's personal story.

Here is my original post, I did on Operation Paper Tiger, which introduces the book:

Operation Paper Tiger - the true story, which reveals why our borders aren't very secure!

I highly recommend it to anyone, who is concerned about our Nation's security.

DOJ press release on the arrest of the Leija-Sanchez brothers, here.

Indictment from Eastern Court of Illinois, here.

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has a slightly different version of this latest development in the story, here.

(Passport photo -- which are frequently used to make counterfeit documents -- of Pedro Castorena-Ibarra)

(Pedro Leija-Sanchez doing time for another crime under an assumed name)

(Julio Leija-Sanchez)

Is a counterfeiting mill for dishonest employees?

Just about when you think you've seen everything on the Internet, someone comes up with something so outlandish that a reasonable person has to question it's legality.

Jessica K. Brown (AP) is reporting on a website that allows anyone to counterfeit (my term) excuses to provide to an employer.

From the AP article (courtesy of the Washington Post):

For about $25, students and employees can buy excuse notes that appear to come from doctors or hospitals. Other options include a fake jury summons or an authentic-looking funeral service program complete with comforting poems and a list of pallbearers.

Apparently, they are getting away with it because they have a disclaimer on the site stating that the templates are for "entertainment purposes only."

Oddly enough, the AP article directly quotes one of the owners as saying:

"Millions of Americans work dead-end jobs, and sometimes they just need a day off," said John Liddell, co-founder of the Internet-based company Vision Matters, which sells the notes as part of its Excused Absence Network. "People are going to lie anyway. How many people go visit their doctors every day when they're not sick because they just need a note?"
To me, this is a direct admission that they know fully well that their templates are being used to defraud employers.

And please remember that it wouldn't be too far fetched to guess that some of these excuses could be used by people committing workmen's comp fraud.

Will the owners of this enterprise be held liable when someone loses their job after providing one of these counterfeit excuses to their employer?

According to the article at least one person has been already been arrested after using one of these counterfeit excuses. A New Jersey woman was arrested after using one of these notes to try to get out of appearing in court. I guess this means people can and will use these counterfeit documents for other purposes besides getting a day off.

Since, a lot of these people are collecting pay using these documents, there is a financial loss being incurred by employers from this activity, also.

There are a lot of reasons for employee absenteeism and many consider it a factor in how productive (profitable) any organization is.

In 2003, a study was published by Braun Consulting News that attempts to quantify the reasons it occurs and what can be done about it. Interestingly enough, the study showed that employee absenteeism was decreasing. The study recommends proactive ways of increasing employee morale, which was found to be big factor in what causes employees to call in sick.

The study is worth a read and it certainly points how organizations need to take a proactive approach in an ever-changing world to address employee absenteeism.

Saying this, most employers are going to take a dim view of forged documents and any employee, who uses them and gets caught, is going to be extremely lucky if they are not terminated for their actions. Most employee handbooks I've ever seen have a clause in them warning against falsifying documents, and most of them call for immediate termination for doing so.

This is a pretty hefty price to pay to get a day off!

Most reasonable bosses are more than happy to take care of a hard working and productive employee if they have a need. My guess is that these documents will be used by employees -- who aren't very hard working, and have already abused the system so much -- they need a written excuse.

The amount of payroll a company spends it directly attributable to how much money they are making. The more of it that gets stolen, the less a company will have to spend on wages and benefits. Given this, the people at are costing the honest worker wages and benefits should their materials be used for anything other than entertainment purposes.

The Internet offers a lot of questionable services, and too many of them operate under the "entertainment purposes" guise.

Maybe if enough people complained to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about them and they were investigated throughly a few of them might be held accountable.

After all, in this instance, one of the site owners seems to have openly admitted to the associated press that he is fully aware of what people are using them for!

AP article (courtesy of the Washington Post), here.

As Southern California burns, watch out for charity scams!

A sad commentary on how some people react to a disaster are the amount of scams that surface as a result of them.

The Postal Inspectors are warning us that we are likely to see a lot of these scams appear as a result of the Southern California fires.

If you are one of the good people out there, who intends to lend some financial support, it is a wise thing to make sure your hard-earned money is going where it is supposed to.

From the USPIS release:

Our charitable nature leaves us vulnerable to charity fraud schemes. Most charities are legitimate organizations that support good causes. Some, however, are run by swindlers. With more than 700,000 federally recognized charities soliciting for charitable contributions, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service reminds everyone it pays to be cautious when making a donation.

Disasters bring out the best in people who truly desire to help those impacted by these situations. Unfortunately, disasters also bring out the worst; scammers take advantage of the circumstances by stealing the charitable donations intended to help victims of the disaster. Postal Inspectors saw numerous charity scams emerge in the days following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Southeast Asia earthquake and tsunami, and the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The recent California firestorm offers a new opportunity for fraudsters to perpetrate charity scams. If you're considering a contribution to help with relief efforts, it's important to know where your donation dollars will go. California Charities can be researched on the Attorney Generalwebsite, or at the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance,

The Postal Inspectors are also offering some general tips on how to avoid these scams:

-- Give donations to known charities, or research new or unfamiliar charities first.

-- Refuse high-pressure appeals. Legitimate fundraisers won't push you to give on the spot. -- Be suspicious of solicitors who say they can only accept a cash donation.

-- Always make checks out to the name of the charity, never to an individual.

-- Be wary of "sound-alike" charities, many scammers use names that sound similar to names of legitimate charities.

-- Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making. This is a tactic scammers use to lull victims into sending "additional" funds.

-- Ask for ID. For-profit fundraisers must disclose the name of the charity requesting the donation --- it's the law. Many states require paid fundraisers to identify themselves as such and to name the charity for which they're soliciting. If the solicitor refuses to tell you, hang up and report it to law enforcement officials. Also ask how much of your donation goes to those in need and how much goes to the fund raiser.

Last, but not least -- if you spot one of these scammers, you can help terminate their activities by reporting them to the Postal Inspectors.

You can find your local Postal Inspector by calling 877-876-2455. If you are of a more technical nature and prefer to report illegal activity online, you may do so, by clicking here.

USPIS release, here.

Although, Arnold isn't taking calls from bloggers this morning, I'm sure he supports terminating this type of activity, also.

The people in Southern California will need a lot of money to help them recover. Wasting monetary resources on scams will not help the situation.

PS: I'm dedicating this post to Paul Young, a noted Southern California blogger and friend, who writes Prying1.

I've enjoyed reading his investigative insights on issues, which are obtained, by digging a little deeper than the mainstream media.