With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, what do you do if you’re growing tired of your pregnant wife? How about arranging for a fake deportation? This bizarre plan was recently carried out to fruition in California, in plain sight of law enforcement officials. In the process, the perpetrator brazenly penetrated TSA’s security at the San Diego International Airport, in spite of security improvements after the attempted Christmas Day bombing. All it took was a few simple props and oodles of chutzpah.
On January 15, 2010, Gregory Raymond Denny, Jr., a 37-year-old California man, barged into the Hemet residence of his cousin Craig Hibbard and his wife Cherriebelle. Posing as a federal officer with a gun and a badge, Denny handcuffed five months pregnant Cherriebelle. He claimed to possess a deportation order issued by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but did not produce any immigration paperwork.
Denny marched the woman out of the house in handcuffs and drove her to the U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta, CA. Border Patrol officers refused to take Denny’s “prisoner”, since she had no wants, warrants or deportation orders. Inexplicably, no one questioned Denny as to his alleged law enforcement status, even though Border Patrol Officers would have to know that U.S. Marshals don’t handle deportations. Apparently, no one questioned why Denny had the kidnapped woman in his “custody”.
Since the Border Patrol refused to deport Cherriebelle Hibbard, Denny brought her back to the Hibbard residence. Craig Hibbard bought a ticket to send his wife back to the Philippines and asked his mother to drive Denny and Cherriebelle to the San Diego International Airport. “I think this guy thought he was doing a favor because they [the family] wanted her deported and he went about it the wrong way,” Hemet police Lt. Duane Wisehart told the Press-Enterprise.
According to Craig Hibbard’s mother, Nancy, Denny sashayed through the airport security, while wearing his holstered weapon, by showing his fake U.S. Marshal badge to three TSA officers. Once at the gate, Denny handed the ticket to Cherriebelle Hibbard, bid her a fine farewell and watched her board the plane.
Cherriebelle Hibbard found out that Gregory Raymond Denny was her husband’s cousin only after she was unlawfully detained, transported and removed from the United States. Mrs. Hibbard was unaware of the deportation plot against her and is now in the process of returning back to the United States. According to Customs official, Cherriebelle Hibbard was in the U.S. legally and will be able to re-enter the country.
When Hemet police questioned Gregory Raymond Denny, he again falsely claimed to be a U.S. Marshal. Denny showed up to the police station wearing a fake badge around his neck and carrying a replica handgun. Hemet police determined that Denny was an impostor, having never been employed by the U.S. Marshals Service or any other law enforcement agency. At that point, Denny alleged to work in the field of fugitive apprehension for a California company, Absolute Bail Bonds.
Riverside court records reflect that on January 19, 2010 Denny was charged with Impersonating a Police Officer under PC 146(A) in case No. 201002710. Denny was released on $50,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on February 16, 2010.
Other law enforcement agencies were notified and may launch their own investigations. The case is under review by the Riverside County District Attorney’s office. TSA is also looking into Denny’s use of a badge to bypass security at San Diego International Airport/Lindbergh Field. “He did go through security with a fake law enforcement credential, as well as a gun belt and wearing a jacket identified as a U.S. marshal,” Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Suzanne Trevino said, acknowledging this paramount security breach. “He appeared legitimate, walked the woman to the gate and left the airport.” “We’re working with additional agencies to review procedures and make sure things like this don’t happen again,” Trevino said.
There are many disturbing questions brought up by this incident:
- Border Patrol officers did not question why an alleged U.S. Marshal was traveling around with a handcuffed woman, asking the Department of Homeland Security to deport her.
- Red flags should have been raised when Denny asked the Border Patrol to take the woman into custody (especially since they queried her name and did not find any wants, warrants or deportation orders).
- Denny claimed to be a U.S. Marshal, but did not present any immigration paperwork and was purportedly escorting a handcuffed female prisoner on his own. Department of Homeland Security officers knew or should have known that U.S. Marshals do not carry out deportations, nor would a male federal agent transport a female prisoner without a partner.
- Instead of asking questions, Border Patrol officers let Denny walk away with his handcuffed victim.
- TSA agents at the San Diego International Airport allowed Denny to breach airport security and get to the gate.
- They did not verify his law enforcement status, beyond a cursory glance at his fake badge.
- No one checked his weapon.
- TSA did not ask to see immigration paperwork for the alleged deportation.
What if Denny had been a terrorist? Would he have been allowed to board a plane in spite of numerous warning signs, like the Christmas Day bomber? “We’re reviewing how he interacted with the TSA at the security checkpoints,” TSA spokeswoman Suzanne Trevino said.
This is yet another example of law enforcement ignoring glaring warning signs, while further limiting constitutional freedoms of law-abiding traveling public. Denny was cleared to pass through TSA security points by showing a fake badge, while wearing a holstered weapon and escorting a handcuffed woman.
At the same time, anti-gun groups target Starbucks with a goal of preventing their customers from legally carrying firearms (apparently prompted by weapons displayed by gun enthusiasts and “open carry” advocates at several Starbucks stores). Peet’s Coffee & Tea and California Pizza Kitchen, have already banned customers from openly carrying guns.
The moral of this story is crystal clear: our federal and state law enforcement agencies need a uniform, corporate protocol that desperately requires increased oversight, to insure vigilance, enhanced training and stringent security measures to foil external and internal threats against the United States.
What we need the most, however, is common sense.