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07/01/2008

Joint investigation leads to arrest on charges of distributing hundreds of counterfeit law enforcement badges

Federal Protective Service arrest two men in New York and Florida

NEWARK, N.J. - A two-year long investigation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Federal Protective Service (FPS) has resulted in the arrest today of two individuals charged with distributing hundreds of false law enforcement badges and credentials.

The joint investigation led to the arrest of two principals of the U.S. Recovery Bureau (USRB), a bail enforcement/bounty hunter organization that has fraudulently issued fake credentials to individuals in the United States. Despite its name, the USRB is not a governmental organization.

Michael J. Garcia, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and John A. Ulianko, Regional Director for the FPS Region 2 announced that Ralph Rios and Robert Neves, both 49, of Homestead, Florida and Staten Island, New York, respectively, were arrested by agents of the FPS. Both are principals of the USRB, which offers monthly classes in bounty hunting and in how to restrain people. The classes regularly take place in Brooklyn and Passaic, N.J., and in other locations, including one in Washington Heights in New York City.

The school provides graduates of its course with badges and credentials that give the impression that they were issued by actual government law enforcement agencies because, among other reasons, the badge is in the same shape as a New York City Police Department Detective badge; the badge bears a seal with a bald eagle that is a facsimile of the great seal of the United States; the badge reads "U.S. Recovery Bureau" and under the seal is the word "Agent" and a badge serial number; the badge is in a leather wallet that also holds credentials that are the same shape and size as federal law enforcement credentials and identify the graduate as a "Special Agent" of the "U.S. Recovery Bureau"; the credentials bear an emblem in the center of the card that is a facsimile of the great seal of the United States; and the credentials lack any clear indication that they are not issued by a governmental organization.

The U.S. Recovery Bureau also sells other materials, including clothing that says "Fugitive Task Force," handcuffs, and batons.

Law enforcement authorities have arrested multiple graduates of U.S. Recovery Bureau for using the credentials issued by the School. On some occasions, students have used their School-issued credentials to try to avoid tickets and other law enforcement actions. In other cases, students have used the credentials to try to access secure government buildings. In at least one case, students have used the School-issued credentials to impersonate law enforcement officers in order to effectuate robberies. Of approximately 943 students who received credentials from U.S. Recovery Bureau, at least 78 were convicted felons at the time they took the U.S. Recovery Bureau course.

Both Rios and Neves each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Neves was presented today in Manhattan federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman; Rios was presented in the Southern District of Florida.

Mr. Garcia praised the investigative work of the FPS and the Police Impersonation Unit of the NYPD in this case, and thanked the United States Marshals Service, the New York Office of the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their roles in the arrests.

Assistant United States Attorney William J. Harrington is in charge of the prosecution. The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.