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Two brothers who ruled a fake ID ring with violence get life

Updated: March 9, 2014 6:18AM

The two brothers, ruthless “kingpins” who ran a lucrative fake ID ring and used violence to protect their enterprise, “took it upon themselves to impose a death sentence to others,” prosecutors said.

On Friday, Julio and Manuel Leija-Sanchez received their own punishment for crimes that included murder in aid of racketeering: life in prison.

“To deliberately rob someone of the simple joy of living on this planet is shocking and horrifying,” U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer said before imposing her sentence.

It was no surprise the sentence was so harsh — the two faced mandatory life — and neither of the shackled men showed emotion when the sentence was read.

The brothers were also ordered to pay $3,000 to the widow of a Mexican man they had killed.

Convicted last March of crimes including racketeering, conspiracy to murder, money laundering and harboring aliens, the Leija-Sanchezes for years paid workers to patrol the parking lot of Little Village’s 26th Street Discount Mall, charging $200 a pop for phony green cards, drivers licenses and Social Security cards.

The ID ring worked with Ald. Ricardo Munoz’s father, who owned the studio where customers posed for photos. Members of the criminal enterprise forced illegal immigrants they’d helped sneak into the U.S. to work for them, and teamed up with the Latin Kings street gang to protect their lucrative Southwest Side turf, evidence showed.

More than a dozen members of the ring — including Munoz’s father, Elias — have since pleaded guilty.

But by the time they hired killer Gerardo Salazar-Rodriguez to go back to Mexico City to murder a former pal they suspected of setting up a rival ID ring in 2007, the feds were onto them. Salazar-Rodriguez will be sentenced next week.

Authorities were listening in on wiretaps as Julio, 38, and Manuel, 46, Leija-Sanchez, Salazar-Rodriguez, 41, and other co-conspirators discussed in lurid detail their plan to kill former ally Guillermo “Montes” Jimenez-Flores.

In one call, Salazar-Rodriguez described the black blood that bled from Jimenez-Flores’ liver, and discussed an unsuccessful plot to murder a second rival, Bruno Freddy Ramirez-Camela — another former member of the ID ring who they believed was in Mexico but was actually locked up in Chicago. Ramirez-Camela testified against his former associates under a plea deal.

On Friday, attorneys for the brothers said life in prison would not be a fair sentence and that the brothers, as elderly men, would pose little threat to anyone.

Manuel Leija-Sanchez “has children who will never see him as a free person again,” said attorney Scott Frankel.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Nasser said the Leija-Sanchezes didn’t consider Jimenez-Flores’ family when they had him killed.

“They all knew Montes had children,” she said. “They didn’t care.”

Contributing: Kim Janssen

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