Have You Been Scammed by a Phony Immigration Officer?

With the case against a Santa Ana man accused of impersonating a federal immigration enforcer bouncing from the Placentia Police Department to the U.S. Attorney’s office, local cops and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are teaming up to seek the public’s help in identifying possible victims.

Luis Flores-Mendoza, 27, of Santa Ana, appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon, which was a month after Placentia cops arrested him on suspicion of impersonating an ICE officer and trying to extort money from a mom.

An unidentified woman told police that on June 6, a man dressed in a green uniform with a vest, badge and handgun came into the Anaheim restaurant where she works, identified himself as a federal agent and gave her a letter that stated it was from ICE and there was a case against her. The supposed ICE officer told her to pay him $5,000 or she and her child would be deported, the alleged victim claimed.

Instead of paying up, the woman called the cops. The Placentia Police Department set up a sting where she contacted the phony ICE officer and set up a meeting to supposedly hand over the cash. The man, later identified as Flores-Mendoza, arrived with what turned out to be a pellet gun and a car equipped with police-style lights and a siren, say police, who arrested him on the spot.

Flores-Mendoza was booked, released and out of custody for about a month before ICE agents arrested him, based on a new federal indictment. If convicted, he faces up to three years in federal prison. Right now he is free on $10,000 bond with an Aug. 29 court date.

“We’re committed to safeguarding the public from scam artists and others who exploit people’s fears for no other reason than to enrich themselves,” says Joseph Macias, special agent at Homeland Security Investigations’ Los Angeles office, in a statement. “We’re concerned this defendant may have preyed on others, and we’re asking anyone who may have been victimized by this individual to come forward.”

Anyone with information that can help investigators or who may have been a victim is asked to call the Placentia Police Department at (714) 993-8164 or ICE’s toll-free tip line: 1-866-DHS-2ICE.

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