Former Federal Agent Convicted of Lying to the FBI
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Meghan Heesch (619) 546-9442 and Andrew P. Young (619) 546-7981
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – October 4, 2019
SAN DIEGO – Johnny Martin, a former supervisor in the Department of Homeland Security, was convicted by a federal jury today of lying to the FBI about providing confidential information from law enforcement databases to outsiders. The information was used by fraudsters who duped more than 100 victims out of millions of dollars with false promises of green cards.
During the investigation, the FBI uncovered confidential government information in the email inbox of Hardev Panesar. Panesar and his associate, Rafael Hastie, posed as Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents and conned immigrants into paying exorbitant fees for the promise of green cards they would never see. Panesar and Hastie were able to convince victims they were bona fide federal agents in part by presenting them with confidential information obtained from law enforcement databases.
The FBI suspected that Martin, who at the time was a supervisory special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, was the source of this confidential information. When FBI agents interviewed Martin in June 2017, he denied sending Hastie the confidential government information.
After the interview, the FBI discovered that – contrary to his denials – Martin had personally extracted the information from law enforcement databases, and had emailed this information directly to the Hastie. The FBI confirmed that the information - which included personally identifiable information, immigration and criminal history - was used by Panesar and Hastie in an attempt to defraud the victims in the immigration fraud scheme. There is no evidence that Martin knew that Hastie was using the information he provided as part of their scam.
After a three-day trial and 11 hours of deliberation, the jury found that despite his denials, Martin lied to the FBI about sending that information to Hastie.
“This immigration scam was successful, in part, because a government official betrayed his badge and then lied about it,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “No one, including members of the law enforcement community, is above the law.” Brewer praised the FBI and prosecutors Andrew Young and Megan Heesch for their hard work on the case.
“No matter your role, status, or position in the community, it is a federal crime to lie to the FBI,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott Brunner. “Lying to an FBI agent as part of an investigation is not only fundamentally wrong but could place lives in danger and frustrate the administration of justice. Mr. Martin knew better and today he was held accountable.”
“Law enforcement officials are held to the highest standard and integrity is at the core of those standards,” said Pete Flores, Director of Field Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, San Diego. “As in this case, we are fully committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure violators are held accountable.”
Martin’s case is related to a separate immigration fraud case pending against Panesar, Hastie and Gurdev Singh (Case No. 17CR1371-GPC).
Panesar pleaded guilty in February and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 9 at 1 p.m. before Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel; Hastie pleaded guilty in October 2018 and was sentenced to 46 months in custody and was ordered to pay $942,310 in restitution; Gurdev Singh pleaded guilty in June 2018 and was sentenced to 27 months in custody and ordered to pay $392,850 in restitution.
DEFENDANT Case Number: 18CR2835-GPC
Johnny Martin Age: 60 Chula Vista, California
SUMMARY OF CHARGE
Making a False Statement to a Federal Agent, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001
Maximum Penalties: Five years in prison, $250,000 fine
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Customs and Border Protection - Office of Field Operations
Customs and Border Protection - Office of Professional Responsibility