DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Central District of California

For Immediate Release

Monday, May 21, 2018
Nicola T. Hanna
, United States Attorney
Contact: Tracy Webb

ICE Agent Impersonator Who Possessed Destructive Devices Sentenced to 24 Months’ Imprisonment

LOS ANGELES – An individual who impersonated an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) Agent and who possessed multiple destructive devices was sentenced today to 24 months in federal prison.

Matthew Ryan Johnston, 26 of Fontana, was sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson for possession of an unregistered destructive device.

Throughout 2017, Johnston used fake ICE badges and uniforms to falsely represent himself as an ICE agent to unsuspecting members of the public. On one occasion, Johnston used unauthorized red and blue police lights to chase another car, causing a traffic collision. On another, Johnston’s ex-girlfriend accidentally activated the red and blue police lights in Johnston’s car. When she was pulled over by a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBSD) detective, Johnston pretended to be an ICE agent while on the phone with the SBSD detective at the scene. Johnston further impersonated an ICE agent when he took a report from an individual about a potential undocumented person, and he falsely identified himself as an ICE agent to various employees and patrons at the Déjà Vu Showgirls club in Industry, California.

In October 2017, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Johnston’s residence. Agents recovered a cache of weapons, illegal destructive devices, approximately 10,000 rounds of ammunition, a fake ICE identification card, body armor carriers with “ICE” and “Federal Agent” patches affixed to them, and red and blue police emergency lights. Among the destructive devices recovered was a home-made, slam-fire device designed to shoot 12-gauge shotgun shells, as well as an AR-15 .223 caliber rifle equipped with an attached 37 mm flare launcher and improvised shotgun shell with anti-personnel ammunition. Using geo-coordinates from Johnston’s cell phone, federal agents subsequently searched open desert land, and discovered five unexploded or partially exploded improvised explosive devices, an expended smoke grenade, an exploded container of a binary explosive, and the remnants of an exploded pipe bomb.

This case was investigated by the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) ICE Office of Professional Responsibility Los Angeles, the DHS ICE Homeland Security Investigations San Bernardino Field Office, the ATF’s Riverside Field Office, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, DHS United States Customs and Border Protection Riverside Air Unit, and the Bureau of Land Management.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Roger Hsieh and Julia Choe of the General Crimes Section.


Release No. 18-084


Los Angeles Field Division