RALEIGH — A federal judge has sentenced a 68-year-old Raleigh man to nearly five years in prison after he pled guilty to bilking hundreds of illegal immigrants out of thousands of dollars by impersonating an immigration agent.
Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard sentenced Tommie Rand Pierce on Wednesday to 57 months in prison on one felony count each of impersonating an agent of the United States and misuse and fraud of visas, permits and other documentation, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office in Raleigh.
Pierce came to the attention of federal investigators in May, 2010, after Katherine Woomer-Deters of the N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh mailed them a copy of the Raleigh-based La Conexion newspaper that had printed an article labeling Pierce as a fraud. The story contained photos of Pierces business cards that described him as President and Chief Executive Officer of Consultor De Immigrations, and said Pierce carried a gun, government credentials and a badge that identified him as an immigration agent.
Woomer-Deters, an attorney with the Justice Centers Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, said Pierce preyed on peoples desperation to obtain legal immigrant status and relied on their fear of law enforcement to get away with it.
These types of scams damage our communities in so many ways, Woomer-Deters stated in an email. Not only do they rob the victims of money and time, but they rob victims of trust in the system itself. The fact that Mr. Pierce was able to scam so many victims for so many years is a testament to how broken our system is and how little sense it makes.
Pierce told people that he could obtain legal documentation for them in exchange for $2,000 to $5,000 per person, according to a criminal complaint filed last year at the U.S. Attorneys Office. He had been posing as an immigration agent for at least two years, and federal investigators found more than 265 phony immigration applications filed by Pierce and his associates, court records show.
Pierce was indicted by a federal grand jury in October and pled guilty to the charges in December.
Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta, said Pierce was selling false hope.
Mr. Pierces next role as a federal inmate puts an end to this criminal scheme, Nicholson said.