A private security employee at the Laguna Woods retirement community in South Orange County was arrested Monday on a criminal complaint alleging he impersonated a federal law enforcement agent.
Donovan Pham Nguyen, 34, of Riverside, is charged with one count of false impersonation of a federal officer or employee and could face up to three years in prison if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed with the complaint, Nguyen pretended for nearly 10 years to be a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations and used the false title to obtain things of value.
Nguyen never worked for HIS, although he previously was a privately contracted security guard at a Department of Homeland Security facility — a job he left in 2015 after an internal investigation was launched resulting from allegations that he printed fake HIS identification documents, according to the affidavit prepared by Alnahl Jones, a Homeland Security special agent.
Nguyen would wear Homeland Security tactical uniforms and other types of agent uniforms while participating in law enforcement activities such as the execution of a search warrant, Jones alleged.
On June 20, Nguyen discussed a “potential investigation” with a Riverside County District Attorney’s Office investigator “after an introduction from a mutual friend” was made, but he later said his supervisor nixed the assistance, according to the affidavit.
While working for Village Management Services at the retirement community in the spring of last year, Nguyen “happened upon” federal agents and talked them into letting him assist with a search warrant based on his claim that he was a federal agent, as well, Jones alleged.
Investigators allege that he used a false Homeland Security ID to purchase weapons, which allowed him to avoid taking and paying for certain firearm safety courses required by California law. He used his father’s home in Riverside as the address to acquire 42 guns, Jones alleged.
He also got paid time off from work with claims of duties with the federal agency, Jones said.
Nguyen came under scrutiny in June, when Riverside County prosecutors looked into federal databases and could not confirm his claim he worked for Homeland Security, Jones said.
Nguyen claimed he works for the federal agency in his LinkedIn profile and is seen in one photo wearing a lapel pin from the agency, according to Jones, who said Nguyen is the listed owner of a private security company, Vigilantz, which has offices in Irvine and Riverside.
He had lights and sirens installed on his Toyota Tacoma, according to Jones, who said he told his co-workers, including retired Santa Ana police Chief Carlos Rojas, that he did an interview purporting to be an ICE agent on YouTube.
Several other former police officers who worked for the security firm said Nguyen boasted of being an agent often and would even pat them down for weapons, Jones said. One allegedly said he was uncomfortable with Nguyen wearing a gun at work because it was not authorized.