Chicago photographer charged in Mexico-based fake ID scheme

| 5/31/2007

Federal authorities have charged another alleged member of a Chicago cell of a Mexico-based criminal organization they say made $2 million to $3 million annually by producing fake IDs.

On Wednesday, May 30, Elias Munoz appeared in U.S. District Court to face a charge of conspiracy to produce fraudulent identification documents.

Munoz, 62, operates the Nuevo Foto Munoz studio in Chicago’s Little Village Discount Mall.

On April 24, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents searched Munoz’ studio and found 717 blank Illinois resident ID cards, 228 blank U.S. ID cards, 900 blank green Illinois resident cards and 717 blank pink U.S. ID cards.

In late April, 22 defendants were charged with conspiracy to produce fraudulent identification documents, according to an ICE news release. The Chicago-area business made millions annually by making and selling false identification cards and documents for a variety of funneled profits back to a Mexico-based crime organization.

According to the news release, a confidential informant told federal agents he used Munoz’ studio since 1996 to process fake IDs when he worked as a vendor for the Castorena Family Organization.

Undercover ICE agents visited Munoz’ studio in early April and had photos taken to obtain counterfeit ID’s for licenses from Michigan, Wisconsin, New York and Iowa, along with “green cards” and Social Security cards.

Conspiracy to produce fraudulent identification documents has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer