LOS ANGELES – A Simi Valley man has pleaded guilty to impersonating a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and, in that false persona, ordering a teenage boy out of a car before seizing and searching the minor’s cellphones without permission.
Farad Gharagozlou Bell, 63, pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of false impersonation of a federal officer before United States District Judge S. James Otero.
By pleading guilty, Bell admitted that on December 2, 2017, he confronted a 15-year-old boy in the parking lot of the Pacific View Mall in Ventura. Bell was angry that the boy had sold a guitar that Bell had wanted to buy after seeing it offered for sale in an online advertisement. At the time, Bell was displaying a badge purporting to identify him as a “Special Agent” of “ICE” and bearing the purported seal of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Bell ordered the boy out of a vehicle in which he was sitting with his family, pushed him against the car and patted him down for weapons. Bell seized the boy’s cellphones and looked through them without permission. A witness called the police, and when Ventura Police officers arrived, Bell told the officers that he was an agent with Homeland Security and that he worked with ICE. Bell also told the officers that he had formerly worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency. When asked for photo identification showing that he was a federal agent, Bell showed them a card bearing the words “UNITED STATES IDENTIFICATION” and three purported seals of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In a plea agreement filed in United States District Court, Bell admitted that he was not employed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and that the badge and identification card he showed to the boy and to Ventura Police Officers were fraudulent. He also admitted that he had never been employed by the DEA.
As a result of today’s guilty plea, Bell faces a statutory maximum sentence of three years in federal prison when he is sentenced by Judge Otero on October 1. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence of home detention and community service.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations.
This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ranee A. Katzenstein, Chief of the Major Frauds Section