LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent was found guilty Tuesday of obstruction of justice and making false statements for giving bogus information to a federal prosecutor and a federal
judge in Florida.
Frank Johnston, 55, of Whittier, who retired from ICE in August 2009 after a 31-year federal law enforcement career, was convicted of the two felony charges following a nine-day trial in Los Angeles.
Evidence presented at trial showed that in 2006 and 2007, Johnston made false statements that resulted in an 18-month delay of a prison term for a man who received an 18-month sentence after being convicted for his part in a cigarette-smuggling operation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
At the time, Johnston began receiving payments for “consulting” services from a foster family agency run by a man with ties to the man who had been convicted in the tobacco case in Florida, prosecutors said.
After telling a number of Justice Department officials that the convicted felon was cooperating with investigators and while trying to convince underlings at ICE to use the man as a cooperator, Johnston ultimately told a federal prosecutor and a U.S. District judge that the felon was providing “ongoing cooperation” in two criminal investigations being conducted in Los Angeles.
Johnston claimed the “informant” was helping investigators who were looking into an alien smuggling ring and a “Vietnamese organized crime group” involved in “the smuggling and exploitation of Asian and Hispanic women that
have either been smuggled or trafficked into the United States and are working as prostitutes,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In fact, prosecutors said, the convicted felon was not actually providing any useful information to investigators, and no one at ICE was investigating either purported crime organization.
Johnston faces up to 15 years behind bars when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge S. James Otero on Jan. 23.
The following day, Johnston and his wife are set to go on trial before Otero on charges stemming from the alleged theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars she received in salary from ICE, even though she had apparently done virtually no work for the agency in years.
The indictment alleges that Taryn Johnston obtained roughly $582,000 in salary and benefits from ICE and its predecessor agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, in the alleged scheme to defraud the government.
Frank Johnston is charged with wire fraud in the case.
Taryn Johnston, 54, who previously worked as an immigration enforcement agent and then as an intelligence research specialist for the law enforcement agencies, is charged with making false statements to ICE investigators.