MANHATTAN (CN) – Two men were arrested Tuesday on federal charges of distributing hundreds of fake law enforcement badges and credentials to “graduates” of their school for bounty hunters. Prosecutors say that of 943 students who got “credentials” from the U.S. Recovery Bureau, at least 78 were felons when they took the course.
Ralph Rios and Robert Neves run the school in Brooklyn and Passaic, N.J., and elsewhere, and the school, despite its name, has nothing to do with the U.S. government. Prosecutors say the men issue badges that look like NYPD badges, bearing a facsimile of the Great Seal of the United States, and the words “U.S. Recover Bureau” and “Agent,” with a badge number. The badges are issued in a leather wallet that holds “credentials” the same size and shape as real federal credentials, which identify the holder as a “Special Agent” of the “U.S. Recovery Bureau,” also with a Great Seal of the U.S.
The men also sell other materials, including clothing stamped “Fugitive Task Force,” handcuffs and batons. Prosecutors say multiple “graduates” of the school, which also purports to teach how to restrain people, have been arrested for using the phony credentials, and some have tried to use them to try to duck tickets and other law-enforcement actions, or to try to gain entry to restricted government buildings. In at least one case, “students” used the credentials to attempt robberies, prosecutors said.
Neves, 49, of Staten Island, and Rios, 49, of Homestead, Fla., face up to 5 years in prison if convicted.