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'I shot that dude in the liver and lungs'

CAUGHT ON TAPE | Feds say they nabbed killer in controversial Little Village raid on fake ID mill

April 26, 2007


Julio Leija-Sanchez was the CEO of a thriving $3 million-a-year business and, like any businessman, needed to eliminate the competition.

So he picked up the phone and ordered them killed, the feds alleged Wednesday.

» Click to enlarge image

Demonstrators at Federal Plaza on Wednesday protest Tuesday's raid at the Little Village Discount Mall.
(Al Podgorski/Sun-Times)

» Click to enlarge image

Eduardo Pina of Joliet joins protesters against the Little Village raid.
(Al Podgorski/Sun-Times)


An arresting situation

"Burn the f------ son of a b----, man," Leija-Sanchez allegedly said in a conversation with his reputed hit man in Mexico that the feds secretly recorded.

Leija-Sanchez, 31, of Oak Lawn, was one of 12 people arrested Tuesday as part of a federal investigation into a highly sophisticated business that provided fake IDs to up to 15,000 people a year in Chicago. Ten others were charged but are fugitives.

It operated in and around the Little Village Discount Mall at 26th and Albany, the site of a federal raid Tuesday that sparked community protests. Heavily armed officers stormed the mall and detained people. Protesters called the tactics heavy-handed and designed to dampen a planned march May 1 to protest federal immigrant raids.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald stressed Wednesday that the raid was unrelated to the protest.

Instead, the raid was to stop the sale of high-quality fake IDs for anyone willing to pay $200 or more, Fitzgerald said. The IDs were bought by illegal immigrants or people looking to commit crimes.

The raid took place Tuesday because the feds said they thought Leija-Sanchez had conspired to murder one competitor a few weeks ago and was planning to kill another.

That made authorities come armed, the feds said.

"If this organization was operating on State Street, we would have done the same thing," said Elissa A. Brown, who runs the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations office in Chicago.

Maricela Iniguez, 40, a beautician at the mall, wasn't buying it. The guys selling fake IDs aren't violent and don't have guns, she said.

"It's not a good reason . . . to do this with people who aren't armed," Iniguez said.

Inside the mall, the buyers of the fake IDs often got their photos taken at a store owned by the father of Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd). Munoz's father wasn't charged, but a federal complaint says undercover agents bought fake IDs inside the store four times. Munoz said his father would kick the ID sellers out of his store.

The alleged head of the fake document business, Leija-Sanchez, is caught on tape discussing killing his competitors with his reputed hit man, Gerardo Salazar-Rodriquez, who was also charged Wednesday but is believed to be in Mexico, the feds say.

Four former members of Leija-Sanchez's group allegedly had stolen some computer items to start their own operation, and Leija-Sanchez wanted them stopped.

In a conversation with Leija-Sanchez, Salazar-Rodriguez allegedly described how he shot one competitor 15 times in a cab he drove in Mexico.

"I was walking ducked down, and when that son of a b---- saw me, he looked as if he had seen the devil!" Salazar-Rodriguez allegedly said.

The alleged hit man told his boss he shot the man in the liver repeatedly "because the blood that fell was black, dude. Black, black, black. . . . I shot that dude in the liver and the lungs, dude."

"Well, since he splashed his s--- all over me; my hands, my shirt, dude. Hell, everything smelled like blood, dude," he allegedly said.

As for the hit on another competitor, the hit man and two colleagues allegedly were looking forward to it.

They might flip a coin to decide who got to do it, the hit man allegedly said.

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