ILLEGAL ALIEN FROM VIETNAM SENTENCED FOR IMPERSONATING IMMIGRATION AGENT, AND POSING AS WOUNDED MARINE
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – United States Attorney Donald A. Davis announced the sentencing today of De Hieu Tran, 43, a citizen of Vietnam and resident of Warren, Michigan, based on his February 2011 convictions for falsely pretending to be an agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (U.S. ICE), and for wearing the ribbon of the Purple Heart Medal without authorization. U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff imposed the maximum prison sentences allowed by law, ordering that Tran not only serve a total of 48 months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, but also that this Federal sentence not begin until after Tran completes a lengthy State of Michigan sentence for Criminal Sexual Conduct that he received in February 2011.
According to the Indictment and evidence presented at sentencing, between February and August 2010, Tran traveled regularly from Warren to Grand Rapids, where he posed alternately as a U.S. ICE agent and as a U.S. Marine officer, as part of a scheme to obtain large cash payments from members of the Vietnamese immigrant community in exchange for immigration benefits that he falsely claimed he could obtain for them. In his guise as a Marine, Tran not only wore the uniform of a U.S. Marine, but also wore numerous military decorations that included the ribbon for the Purple Heart Medal, a medal authorized by Congress only for members of the U.S. Armed Forces who are wounded or killed in combat. In his pose as an ICE agent, Tran wore and displayed a fraudulent U.S. ICE credential and carried handcuffs, threatening to arrest and deport any alien who did not pay him the full amount agreed upon and bragging about the number of aliens he had already deported. According to testimony, Tran sought as much as $20,000 from aliens he promised to assist, and obtained in excess of $20,000 dollars from numerous different aliens.
Mr. Tran’s behavior in this case was not only criminal, it was reprehensible. Tran preyed on the vulnerable, damaged the immigrant community’s view of law enforcement through his impersonation, and dishonored the brave men and women of our military during a time of war,” said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in Detroit. “Our special agents, the Kentwood police officers, and the prosecution team did a tremendous job in bringing Tran to justice.”
In sentencing Tran, Judge Neff commented not only on the seriousness of his having fraudulently worn the Marine uniform and the Purple Heart at a time when so many West Michigan residents have served and are serving in combat, but also on the seriousness of Tran’s having carried out a fraud scheme that targeted and exploited members of a vulnerable immigrant population whom he fooled into thinking that he was their path to eventual U.S. citizenship. Judge Neff informed Tran that, but for the fact that she was limited by the statutory maximums, she would have imposed even lengthier prison sentences.
The case was investigated by agents of U.S. ICE/HSI and the Kentwood Police Department, and was prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen W. Frank.