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Alleged Hispanic crime kingpin arrested on passport fraud charges

December 20, 1996

MIAMI (AP) _ The reputed leader of one of the country’s largest Hispanic organized crime groups was ordered held without bail Thursday on 17 charges of faking his U.S. citizenship and using a phony passport.

Federal agents used a truck to smash through the iron gates of Jose Miguel Battle’s house on Wednesday. Battle was arrested when he showed up at the Miami ranch house hours later.

The Cuban-born Battle is charged with pasting his picture on two passports and traveling to Peru and Curacao in the Netherland Antilles.

Lt. Vic McEachin, director of Metro-Dade’s vice investigative unit, said Battle has been into ``everything from murder to gambling.″

Investigators said additional charges against Battle are expected, but they said they would settle for the fraud charges for now.

``Al Capone, like Battle, was into a lot, but what they finally got him on was tax evasion,″ McEachin said. ``Any charge against Battle at this point is welcome.″

With cracked fingernails and bruised arms, Battle stood before U.S. magistrate Stephen T. Brown while his attorneys asked for house arrest. They said Battle, 67, is diabetic and needs kidney dialysis.

``He’s an old man and he is sick,″ said attorney Jack R. Blumenfeld. ``He deserves to be put under house arrest.″

Brown refused, saying Battle, despite his sickness, was ``at risk of fleeing the country.″ Arraignment is set for Tuesday.

If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each count.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Lehner said a search of Battle’s house found $92,000 in cash, and records of a gambling business operated by Battle.

Law enforcement officials have been investigating Battle for 30 years, since he owned a strip club in Union City, N.J. _ the second largest enclave of Cuban immigrants after Miami.

He is suspected of committing crimes in several states. According to New Jersey authorities, Battle is responsible for several contract killings, drug running and operating a gambling empire for more than 20 years.

Lehner said Battle has previous racketeering, gambling and federal firearms convictions. While in prison for the firearms conviction, Battle was also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 30 years.

An appeals court overturned the conviction, but Battle pleaded guilty in exchange for being sentenced to time served.

Battle’s associate, Evelyn Runciman, a Peruvian, faces six counts of U.S. passport fraud. She was in Peru with Battle, investigators said.

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