Feds charge father of Chicago alderman

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The father of a Chicago alderman has been charged in connection with a raid in the Little Village neighborhood last month. Elias Munoz owns a photo studio that was allegedly used to produce phony identification. Munoz is the father of 22nd Ward Alderman Ricardo Munoz.

ABC7 has learned from a source close to the Munoz family that Elias Munoz will fight the charges maintaining that he only sold photos and had nothing to do with any conspiracy to make fake IDs. But the feds claim the 22nd Ward alderman's father was a major player and target of Operation Paper Tiger.

Federal agents allege that a ring of fake ID sellers that operated for at least 3 1/2 years in the parking lot of a Little Village strip mall routinely sent their customers -- sometimes over 100 a day -- to Nuevo Foto Munoz, 3105 W. 26th St., to fill out forms and have their pictures taken for $10 each. At another location, the counterfeiters used the snapshots to make bogus Social Security cards, green cards and driver's licenses.

The government claims it has affidavits from informants and undercover agents that will link Elias Munoz to the ring, 13 members of which were arrested in an April 24 raid on the mall. On that day, Elias's son, 22nd Ward Alderman Ricky Munoz, led complaints about how the raid was conducted.

"To have officers walking around with machine guns, it looked like a militarized zone," Munoz said last month.

Tuesday, prosecutors alleged that during their search of the photo shop they found 717 blank State of Illinois ID cards, 228 blank so-called US identification cards and 900 blank green USA/Illinois ID cards.

But ABC7 has learned the blanks are not counterfeit official forms and that other photo shops in Little Village sell similar unofficial IDs to undocumented immigrants and have done so for years.

By telephone Tuesday night, Alderman Ricky Munoz told ABC7 that on the advice of his father's lawyer he could not comment on the case, at least not yet.

Munoz is mentioned frequently as a possible candidate for the congressional seat now held by Luis Guiterrez, who says he not run for re-election in 2008.

Elias Munoz will appear in federal court Wednesday morning.

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