SANTA ANA, Calif. – An Orange County man who allegedly posed as an agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in an attempt to extort money from at least one female victim made his first federal court appearance Tuesday after being charged with impersonating a federal officer.
Luis A. Flores-Mendoza, 26, of Santa Ana, was arrested Monday by special agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). He was charged in a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors last week.
Flores-Mendoza was initially arrested and charged in state court earlier this month after an investigation by the Placentia Police Department.
According to the federal complaint, the female victim told Placentia police detectives that Flores-Mendoza arrived at her workplace last month clad in police tactical gear, including a vest, badge, and a firearm, which later proved to be a pellet gun. After allegedly identifying himself as an ICE agent, the victim said Flores-Mendoza presented her with a letter, purportedly from ICE, stating there was an immigration case against her. The defendant then allegedly instructed the victim to pay him $5,000 to prevent her and her child from being deported. At the time of his original arrest on the state charge earlier this month, Flores-Mendoza was driving a vehicle equipped with police-style strobe lights and a siren.
“Impersonating a federal agent not only harms the victim who encounters the impersonator, but it can also undermine the public’s confidence in law enforcement officers,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “In this case, the defendant allegedly posed as a federal agent in an effort to extort money from a vulnerable victim, who fortunately reported it to police.”
HSI and the Placentia Police Department are continuing to investigate this case. Authorities urge members of the public who have information that may be relevant to this ongoing probe to contact the Placentia Police Department or ICE’s toll-free tip line – 1-866-DHS-2ICE – or use the agency’s online tip form.
At his court appearance Tuesday afternoon, Flores-Mendoza was ordered freed on a $10,000 bond, and directed to appear for arraignment Aug. 29.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. The defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If convicted of the impersonation charge, Flores-Mendoza faces a statutory maximum penalty of three years in federal prison.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Keenan.