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    United States Attorney's Office
    Central District of California

    Thom Mrozek
    Public Affairs Officer

    (213) 894-6947
    thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov



    Return to the 2010 Press Release Index
    Release No. 10-130

    September 10, 2010

    FORMER DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL CHARGED WITH CAUSING HIS WIFE TO COLLECT SALARY OF NEARLY $600,000 EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS NOT WORKING

    Former Assistant Special Agent in Charge at ICE also Allegedly Obstructed Justice by Falsely Claiming Convicted Felon was Helping Investigation of Organized Crime Rings

    LOS ANGELES – A former assistant special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was arrested this morning after being indicted by a federal grand jury on wire fraud charges alleging the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars his wife received in salary from ICE even though she had done virtually no work for the agency in years.

    Frank Eugene Johnston, 51, was taken into custody after surrendering this morning to special agents with ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). Johnston retired from ICE in August 2009 after 31 years in federal law enforcement.

    The indictment in the case alleges that his wife, Taryn Johnston, obtained approximately $582,000 in salary and benefits from ICE and its predecessor agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, in the scheme to defraud the government.

    Frank Johnston’s wife – Taryn Johnston, 53, who previously worked as an immigration enforcement agent and then as an intelligence research specialist for the law enforcement agencies – was also taken into custody this morning. Taryn Johnston is charged with making false statements to ICE OPR by telling OPR special agents that she had worked the hours for which she was paid. Taryn Johnston is also charged with lying to OPR special agents when she denied giving an ICE agent her computer login information so he could access her ICE email account and forward messages to her personal email account.

    According to the indictment, when both defendants worked for INS, Frank Johnston became his wife's supervisor. In 2002, Frank Johnston assigned his wife to “an isolated INS sub-office, approximately six blocks away from the INS main office in Los Angeles.” Soon after the re-assignment, Taryn Johnston stopped going to work and Frank Johnston approved her time sheets, which “frequently also claimed premium pay for overtime and holiday hours.” As part of the scheme to defraud the government, the couple allegedly asked the only other employee at the sub-office to login to Taryn Johnston's work email account, review emails and forward certain messages to Taryn Johnston's person email account.

    In relation to the scheme, Frank Johnston is charged with 22 counts of wire fraud and one count of theft of government property, specifically $582,281.27 in salary and benefits paid to Taryn Johnston by INS and ICE for work she did not perform.

    “Our newly re-formed Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section provides a center where experienced prosecutors can focus on these types of cases involving government officials who abuse their positions of power,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Employees of any governmental agency, especially a law enforcement agency, have a special relationship with the people of the United States, and any abuse of that trust demands a thorough investigation and, when necessary, a criminal prosecution.”

     Terri Tollefson, special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility in Los Angeles, said: “As this indictment makes clear, ICE takes charges of employee misconduct seriously and we will aggressively investigate any allegations that arise. We hold our employees to the highest standards of professional and personal integrity. Guarding against illegal or unethical behavior is not an option; it is an obligation we have to the people we serve.”

    Frank Johnston is also charged with obstruction of justice and making false statements for giving false information to an assistant United States attorney and a United States District Judge in Florida. Frank Johnston allegedly told the Justice Department prosecutor and the judge that a convicted felon was providing “ongoing cooperation” in two criminal investigations being conducted in Los Angeles that were looking into an alien smuggling ring and a “Vietnamese organized crime group” that were involved in “the smuggling and exploitation of Asian and Hispanic women that ha[d] been smuggled or trafficked into the United States and [we]re working as prostitutes.” According to the indictment, the convicted felon was not actually providing any information to investigators, and no one at ICE was investigating either purported crime organization. Frank Johnston’s false representations allegedly caused a delay in the start of a prison term for the convicted felon.

    The Johnstons are expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

    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.

    Frank Johnston is charged in 25 counts in the indictment. If he is convicted of all charges, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 465 years in federal prison.

    Taryn Johnston is charged in two counts in the indictment. If she is convicted of all charges, she faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

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

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    Release No. 10-130

    Return to the 2010 Press Release Index