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08/21/2012

ICE investigating Wash. man who posed as immigration officer

Investigators are asking individuals with information to come forward

ICE investigating Wash. man who posed as immigration officer
ICE investigating Wash. man who posed as immigration officer
SEATTLE – Federal authorities are asking individuals who may have been deceived, threatened or harmed by a man posing as a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officer to come forward and aid the investigation into his alleged crimes.

Jose "Panama" Antonio Haughton, 36, is believed to have illegally posed as an immigration officer over the past several years. He is known by most people simply as "Panama." While he operated mostly from the Seattle/Tacoma area, investigators have identified victims in other parts of the country.

According to investigators, Haughton targeted illegal immigrants and promised to expedite applications for immigration benefits for a fee. Haughton would perform elaborate charades to convince his victims of his credibility, including accompanying them to Department of Homeland Security offices. Law enforcement has also received information that Haughton threatened individuals with bodily harm while carrying out his scheme.

"We understand the fear that illegal immigrant crime victims have with coming forward to law enforcement," said Shawn Fallah, resident agent in charge of ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) Seattle. "ICE takes these allegations very seriously; impersonating a federal officer is a significant crime that undermines public safety and trust. Our primary concern in these cases is to arrest and criminally prosecute imposters. We will not allow criminals to capitalize on the fear of deportation to victimize immigrants."

Haughton came to the attention of law enforcement after an illegal immigrant crime victim reported him to police. According to court documents, Haughton posed as an ICE officer and exploited the victim's fear of deportation to extort money and sex from her. Haughton is currently being held at the King County Jail awaiting trial on rape and robbery charges.

Haughton's criminal record shows felony convictions in Colorado, Montana and New York. He has not yet been charged in connection with the federal investigation and is considered innocent until proven guilty.

Anyone with information about this case or individuals posing as immigration officers is encouraged to contact ICE at http://www.ICE.gov/tips or 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423); reports can be made 24 hours a day in both Spanish and English.

OPR and ICE Homeland Security Investigations are involved in the probe. OPR is the agency's internal affairs division tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct by ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. OPR is involved in this case because Haughton allegedly posed as an ICE officer.