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Former Department of Homeland Security Official Found Guilty of Obstruction of Justice for Lying to Federal Judge and Prosecutor

December 13, 2011

LOS ANGELES – A former assistant special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was found guilty this afternoon of obstruction of justice and making false statements for giving false information to a federal prosecutor and a federal judge in Florida.

Frank Johnston, 55, of Whittier, who retired from ICE in August 2009 after 31 years in federal law enforcement, was convicted of the two felony charges following a 9-day trial.

The evidence presented during the trial showed that Johnston in 2006 and 2007 made false statements that resulted in the delay – lasting nearly a year and a half – of a prison term for a man who received an 18-month sentence after being convicted in relation to a cigarette-smuggling operation. Johnston told a Justice Department prosecutor and a United States District Judge that the convicted felon was providing “ongoing cooperation” in two criminal investigations being conducted in Los Angeles. The convicted felon was not actually providing any useful information to investigators, and no one at ICE was investigating either purported crime organization.

As a result of today’s convictions, Johnston faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years when he is sentenced by United States District Judge S. James Otero on January 23.

On January 24, Johnston and his wife, Taryn Johnston, are scheduled to go on trial before Judge Otero on charges that Taryn Johnson received approximately $582,000 in salary and benefits from ICE and its predecessor agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, even though she had done virtually no work for the agency in years. Frank Johnston is charged with wire fraud, and Taryn Johnston is charged with making false statements to ICE investigators.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

The case against the Johnstons was investigated by ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Release No. 11-175

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