A former Department of Homeland Security agent has been charged with lying to investigators about whether he provided confidential information from a federal law enforcement database to another person involved in an alleged immigration fraud scheme.
Johnny Martin, 59, was arraigned Tuesday in federal court on a charge of making a false statement to a federal agent, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego. Martin worked for the agency for 29 years before retiring about four years ago, according to his attorney, Eugene Iredale.
The charge stems from an investigation into a massive immigration fraud case against three other men, who are charged with defrauding 150 people and netting $6 million.
In that case, two of the defendants allegedly posed as DHS agents and told people they could help them obtain legal immigration status, charging what prosecutors said were “exorbitant fees” of as much as $40,000. None of them worked for the government.
FBI agents questioned Martin last year about his contacts with one of the defendants. The indictment said that Martin had searched a confidential database more than a dozen times in 2015 and 2016 for information on names of certain individuals.
Iredale said that the request came from Rafael Hastie, one of the three people charged in the immigration scam.
The government said Martin would create new documents with the confidential information — such as immigration history or the criminal history of someone — and email it to Hastie using a personal email account.
In the March 2017 interview, agents showed Martin one example of the records they say he had extracted from the database and sent to Hastie. Martin allegedly told the agents he did not know how the information was sent to Hastie and denied sending it.
Prosecutors say that one way the trio was able to convince people they were actual federal agents was by showing them confidential information obtained from law enforcement databases.
Iredale gave a different version of events. He said Hastie was an informant of Martin’s, who said he was an immigration consultant and occasionally would ask for information. Iredale said Martin provided the information as part of the give-and-take of informant relationships, not to assist in defrauding anyone.
The defense attorney said Martin made no money off the scam.
Moran writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.