LOS ANGELES (CN) — A former security guard for an Orange County retirement center pleaded guilty Wednesday to a felony charge of pretending for years to be a U.S. Department of Homeland Security officer, a false title he used when meeting with and being briefed by real federal officers.
Donovan Pham Nguyen, 34, of Orange, California began working for Village Management Services in 2015.
While employed at the Laguna Woods facility, Nguyen told his employer and coworkers he was a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security.
Coworkers told prosecutors Nguyen kept a false DHS badge and tactical gear, including a ballistic shield inside his office and equipped his personal car with emergency lights and a police siren, according to a criminal complaint in the case.
Court documents show Nguyen handed out Homeland Security Investigations memorabilia, mugs and coins to his coworkers and appeared in an interview posted on YouTube where he discusses federal immigration policies.
Nguyen also used the false badge to purchase firearms and avoid taking firearm safety courses required by California law, the complaint said.
The federal agency had previously employed Nguyen as a privately contracted security guard at one of its facilities.
But Nguyen left the position in 2015 after DHS launched an internal investigation stemming from allegations he printed fake Homeland Security Investigations identification materials. He joined the retirement center the same year.
Nguyen unlawfully wielded the false title to conduct traffic stops of his coworkers and search their property, according to a 17-page plea agreement filed Oct. 13 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Under his private security role at Village Management, Nguyen was not permitted to conduct traffic stops.
According to the plea agreement, Nguyen posed as an HSI agent when U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service officers were preparing to execute an arrest warrant at VMS in 2019.
After attending a Diplomatic Security Service briefing on May 30, 2019, Nguyen was permitted to enter a private home at VMS while federal agents executed the warrant.
The plea agreement states Nguyen admitted to prosecutors he impersonated an HSI agent again in June 2020 when he met with a Riverside County District Attorney’s Office official to discuss a potential joint investigation.
Nguyen is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge District Judge Dolly Gee on Feb. 3, 2021 for sentencing.
He faces a maximum sentence of three years in federal prison, according to assistant U.S. Attorneys John Balla and Jerry Yang, who are prosecuting the case.
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