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North Carolina man pleads guilty to impersonating a federal officer
An elderly North Carolina man pleaded guilty to charges of running a scam in which he posed as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer to extort money from immigrants who were trying to remain in the U.S.
Tommie Pierce, 68, was arrested in September in Ogden, UT, after an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). He was accused of impersonating an ICE officer to extract payments from immigrants, and with fraud in connection with hundreds of fraudulent immigration applications, said ICE.
According to court documents, Pierce defrauded an unknown number of aliens and/or businesses by leading them to believe he was an ICE officer with the appropriate authority to obtain approval of immigration applications for individuals who were ineligible to obtain benefits. In exchange for the payments, Pierce prepared and filed fraudulent immigration applications on behalf of illegal aliens. He also reportedly threatened some immigrants with deportation if they didn’t pay.
The North Carolina Policy Watch, part of poverty watchdog group in the state, said in September that Pierce conducted his scam from December 2007 until his arrest. It quoted an affidavit from an ICE special agent that said Pierce charged immigrants looking for help in obtaining legal status up to $2,000 to $5,000. It said Pierce posed as an ICE agent, wearing a gun and hats or shirts with “ICE” stamped on them.
It also quoted the affidavit saying that most of the claims occurred in North Carolina, but Pierce and his associates also filed claims for immigrants living in Washington, Virginia, Indiana, Texas, California, Maryland and Tennessee. It said he held meetings with his clients at his home in Raleigh, NC, as well as nearby Bojangles’ and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants.
ICE said on Dec. 9 that its investigation had uncovered more than 265 fraudulent immigration applications filed by Pierce and/or his assistants.
"ICE HSI takes seriously anyone who impersonates a federal official. These individuals undermine public trust. We must prosecute accordingly in order to protect our citizens," said Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Georgia and the Carolinas.