RALEIGH — A man who pled guilty to bilking over 250 illegal immigrants out of thousands of dollars by posing as an immigration agent who could make them legal residents will learn his sentence this week.
A man who pled guilty to bilking over 250 illegal immigrants out of thousands of dollars by posing as an immigration agent who could make them legal residents will learn his sentence this week.
Tommie Rand Pierce of 5316 Sahalee Way in Raleigh pled guilty late last year in federal court to one count of false impersonation of an officer of the United States and one count of fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents, according to Robin Zier, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh.
Pierce, 68, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in a Greenville federal court. He could spend up to 13 years in prison when he goes before Senior Judge Malcolm J. Howard, according to Zier.
Pierce came to the attention of federal authorities in May 2010 when they were contacted by Katherine Woomer-Deters, director of the N.C. Justice Center’s Eastern Carolina Immigrants Rights Project in Raleigh, according to a criminal complaint filed at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Woomer-Deters told federal officials that Pierce was posing as an agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement while defrauding illegal immigrants out of large sums of money, court affidavits show.
Woomer-Deters was unavailable for comment.
Pierce told the victims that he could obtain legal documentation for them in exchange for $2,000 to $5,000 per person. Federal agents launched an investigation and found more than 265 phony immigration applications filed by Pierce and his accomplices, court records show.
Pierce had been posing as an immigration agent for at least two years. Woomer-Deters mailed investigators a copy of the Raleigh-based La Conexion newspaper that had printed an article labeling Pierce as a fraud. The story contained photos of Pierce’s business cards that described him as “President and Chief Executive Officer of Consultor De Immigrations,” court records show.
The newspaper described Pierce as an older man with gray hair “who carried a gun, government credentials and a badge that identified him as an immigration agent.”
Pierce claimed to have immigration consulting experience dating back to 1996. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ICE or its predecessor, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, has never employed Pierce, court records show.
Pierce could not be reached for comment.
Federal investigators gained more information about Pierce’s scam when Woomer-Deters told them that two of his victims, a husband and wife, were willing to speak with them about their encounter, court records show.
The couple met with investigators in June 2010. They told authorities they had met with Pierce in December 2007 and that Pierce showed up for the meeting wearing a Department of Homeland Security shirt, an ICE hat and a holstered gun on his hip, court records show.
Pierce opened a laptop computer with a Homeland Security seal on the screen. He told the couple, natives of Mexico, that he could obtain legitimate immigration documents for them and that his fee was $2,200 per person, court records show.
Federal agents continued their investigation. Warrants for Pierce’s arrest were issued Sept. 7, court records show.
News researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report