Inland Empire Man who Impersonated ICE Agent and Possessed Destructive Devices Sentenced to Two Years in Federal Prison
LOS ANGELES – An Inland Empire man who impersonated an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent and who possessed multiple destructive devices was sentenced today to 24 months in federal prison.
Matthew Ryan Johnston, 26 of Fontana, was sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson for possession of an unregistered destructive device.
Throughout 2017, Johnston used fake ICE badges and uniforms to falsely represent himself as an ICE agent to unsuspecting members of the public. On one occasion, Johnston used unauthorized red and blue police lights to chase another car, causing a traffic collision. In another incident, Johnston’s ex-girlfriend accidentally activated the red and blue police lights in Johnston’s car. When she was pulled over by a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBSD) detective, Johnston spoke on the phone to the SBSD detective at the scene and pretended to be an ICE agent. Johnston further impersonated an ICE agent when he took a report from an individual about a potential undocumented person. Johnston also falsely identified himself as an ICE agent during several visits to the Déjà Vu Showgirls club in the City of Industry.
In October 2017, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Johnston’s residence, where they recovered a cache of weapons, illegal destructive devices, approximately 10,000 rounds of ammunition, a fake ICE identification card, body armor carriers with “ICE” and “Federal Agent” patches affixed to them, and red and blue police emergency lights.
Among the destructive devices recovered was a home-made, “slam-fire” device designed to shoot 12-gauge shotgun shells, as well as an AR-15-style .223-caliber rifle equipped with a 37-mm flare launcher. Using geo-coordinates from Johnston’s cell phone, federal agents subsequently searched open desert land, and discovered five unexploded or partially exploded improvised explosive devices (IEDs), an expended smoke grenade, an exploded container of a binary explosive, and the remnants of an exploded pipe bomb.
This case was investigated by ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility; ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and the Bureau of Land Management.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Roger Hsieh and Julia Choe of the General Crimes Section.