ICE agent charged with stealing from immigrants

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Justin M. Ford, 32, of Stratford, N.J., was arrested February 24.

A federal agent assigned to drive deportees from Philadelphia to the York County Prison has been charged with theft and related offenses for allegedly stealing hundreds of dollars from the vulnerable immigrants he transported.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Justin M. Ford, 32, of Stratford, was arrested Feb. 24 in an elaborate sting that involved marked bills, an undercover officer who posed as a non-English-speaking immigrant, cooperation from the prison's intake unit, and the takedown of Ford by a Philadelphia Police Department SWAT team.

"What Mr. Ford did was deplorable, [and] it wasn't the first time he stole from deportees," Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said at a Tuesday news conference. "He will be punished to the fullest extent of the law."

Authorities said the investigation began with a tip to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General.

Speaking at the news conference, Gregory Null, special agent in charge of the Inspector General's Office, said he came to Williams seeking an undercover agent to participate in the sting, during which Ford allegedly took two $100 bills from the $2,000 that the undercover agent was carrying.

"Clearly Agent Ford saw him as an easy victim," Williams said, adding that it seemed "idiotic" to throw away a career for that sum.

The alleged theft was documented when the undercover agent's belongings were itemized at the prison and $200 had been removed, said Williams, who praised Null for bringing the matter to light.

"It would have been very easy ... for the Department of Homeland Security to just look the other way with this agent stealing from individuals who were about to be deported," Williams said. "I would like to thank them for their courage, because they did the right thing."

Williams said Ford broke down in tears after he was arrested.

And after the arrest, Null said, Ford allegedly admitted to "two to three" similar incidents "totaling roughly $750."

He was arraigned and released on $25,000 bail.

Efforts to reach him were unsuccessful. The court docket does not list a lawyer for him.

The case is scheduled for a status hearing before Judge Marsha Neifeld on March 27.


mmatza@phillynews.com

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@MichaelMatza1