Diplomatic Security Services Arrests Individual for Impersonating a Federal Officer at the International Luis Muñoz Marin Airport
On Thursday, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico announced the formation of a Task Force that will be working against fraud related to Hurricane Irma recovery efforts and the following day they announced what appears to be the first case in the District of Puerto Rico related to Hurricane Irma’s relief efforts.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Camille Vélez-Rivé authorized a criminal complaint against Philip Freed, charging him with impersonation of a federal law enforcement officer, entering an airport in violation of security requirements and false statements. The U.S. State Department, Diplomatic Security Services (DSS), with the collaboration of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are in charge of the investigation.
According to the criminal complaint, on Sept. 12, Philip Freed falsely pretended to be a law enforcement officer acting under the authority of the United States. Freed gained access to a federally restricted area of the Puerto Rico Airport and made materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations to DSS special agents during the course of the investigation, all while portraying to be a federal law enforcement officer helping with Hurricane Irma’s relief efforts.
“The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate this crime,” said Resident Agent in Charge Richard Hays of the DSS San Juan Resident Office. “Impersonating a federal law enforcement officer while our nation reels from the recent natural disasters is especially concerning. Our special agents – many of whom still do not have power in their homes – showed exceptional professionalism and dedication as they pursued this case.”
If convicted, Freed faces up to three years of in prison. A criminal complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty. Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc S. Chattah has been assigned to prosecute this case.
Members of the public are reminded to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before trusting anyone purporting to be working on behalf of disaster victims. Members of the public who suspect fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721. The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also fax information to the Center at (225) 334-4707, or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the National Center for Disaster Fraud at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.