Phony US Marshal Apprehends, Deports Woman

A Hemet man who passed himself off as a U.S. Marshal was able to enter San Diego International Airport with a “prisoner” after convincing airport security officers he was a federal agent, a Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

Suzanne Trevino, spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said in a telephone interview that an investigation has revealed that someone who presented “falsified law enforcement documents” was able to get past security and eventually make it to a gate with a prisoner. The individual presented himself as a law enforcement officer and followed the proper procedures, including logging in, she said.

The agency learned about the incident after being contacted by “local law enforcement” about the potential breach in security.

“We are working with law enforcement and other departments to make sure this does not happen again,” Trevino said.

Trevino declined to discuss what law enforcement officers are required to do to verify their status, or what policy changes have taken place since the incident.

After the “prisoner” took off in a plane, Trevino said, the individual left the airport.

The Transportation Security Administration, which is responsible for security at airports, and the U.S. Border Patrol were informed by Hemet police about the incident after investigators learned that a woman had been “deported” by someone who claimed to be a U.S. Marshall, said Lt. Duane Wisehart.

Gregory R. Denny, 37, was booked last month and booked on suspicion of kidnapping, false imprisonment and impersonating a peace officer, Wisehart said. John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, said Monday the case against Denny is still under review and he did not have an estimate on how soon a decision will be made on whether charges will be filed.
Denny could not be reached for comment Monday and Tuesday.

According to a news release from Wisehart, investigators received a call on Jan. 18 from a home in the 1200 block of Stepstone Court. The witnesses said a man, later identified as Denny, arrived at a residence and identified himself as a U.S. Marshal.

Wishart said Denny was wearing clothing with “Federal Agent” printed on it, had a badge around his neck, a gun belt, and displayed an apparent handgun. Wisehart said Tuesday that investigators confiscated two pellet guns from Denny, one of which they believe was used during the incident.

The witnesses at the home told investigators the suspect then handcuffed a female resident of the home and said he was detaining her and deporting the woman, Wisehart said. The other residents of the home included the woman’s spouse and his mother, Wisehart said Tuesday.

The victim was then taken to the suspect’s vehicle and then allegedly driven to the U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta, Wisehart said. Officials at the Border Patrol office told Denny he would not take Denny’s “prisoner” because there was no warrant in the computer system. Denny told Hemet investigators that officers at the Border Patrol office confirmed the woman was in the country illegally, Wisehart said, but they would not take her into custody. Wisehart said Tuesday that Hemet investigators have not verified the woman’s immigration status.

“That is not really something that we are interested in at this point,” Wisehart said.

Hemet investigators were then told that the suspect ultimately drove the female victim to the International Airport, where he escorted the handcuffed victim through the airport and to the gate of a departing flight, Wisehart said. At this point he un-handcuffed the victim and she boarded the plane that was headed to the Philippines.

Wisehart declined to name the woman, but said she apparently has remained in the Philippines believing she had been deported. Wisehart said the victim’s family, believing the woman was being deported by federal officials, paid for the airline ticket.

Wisehart said it appears Denny knew someone in the residence, but investigators do not know what connection, if any, he may have had with the woman.

Investigators contacted Denny, Wisehart said, and he confirmed many details of the incident that witnesses told investigators. Denny continued to tell Hemet police that he was associated with U.S. Marshall’s office, Wisehart said, but investigators say they cannot find any proof that Denny has ever had any connection to any law enforcement agency. Wisehart said Tuesday that Denny told investigators he was working for a federal “task force” based out of Orange and Los Angeles counties.

The Hemet police department made notifications to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshall’s Service, U.S. Border Patrol and the Transportation Security Administration for any investigation of activities within their jurisdictions.

Wisehart declined to comment on the federal probes, saying the information they passed onto the agencies was based on interviews with the witnesses and Denny, rather than with independent investigations by Hemet officers.

Jose Arballo Jr. is Southwest Riverside News Network editor. Email: jose.arball0 (at) swrnn.com.

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