A federal probe into the activities of a now indicted Department of Homeland Security official have revealed a fake investigation into a Vietnamese crime ring in Garden Grove, prosecutors said Monday.
Frank Eugene Johnston, 51, a former assistant special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles, and his wife, Taryn Johnston, 53, who previously worked as an immigration enforcement agent in Orange County, were arrested Sept. 10 and arraigned in federal court in Los Angeles.
The couple was previously indicted for funneling nearly $600,000 to Taryn Johnston through a fake employment scheme.
One set of charges alleges that Frank Johnston created a nonexistent investigation of an alleged Vietnamese organized crime ring in Garden Grove, said Assistant United States Attorney Joseph N. Akrotirianakis of the office's newly re-formed public corruption unit.
That charge also involved a convicted felon in Florida, according to a news release from the public corruption unit of the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office.
Frank Johnston is accused of obstruction of justice and giving false information to an assistant United States attorney.
Frank Johnston allegedly told the Justice Department prosecutor and the judge that a convicted felon was providing "ongoing cooperation" in two criminal investigations being conducted in Los Angeles that were looking into an alien smuggling ring and a "Vietnamese organized crime group" that were involved in "the smuggling and exploitation of Asian and Hispanic women that ha[d] been smuggled or trafficked into the United States and [we]re working as prostitutes."
According to the indictment, the convicted felon was not actually providing any information to investigators, and no one at ICE was investigating either purported crime organization. Frank Johnston's false representations allegedly caused a delay in the start of a prison term for the convicted felon.
Frank Johnston is charged with 25 counts in the indictment. If he is convicted of all charges, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 465 years in federal prison.
Taryn Johnston, who formerly worked in Orange County for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and its successor, ICE, is charged with two counts in the indictment. If she is convicted of all charges, she faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.
-- TRACY WOOD