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Former federal agent lied to FBI in green card scam, jury says

SAN DIEGO — A former supervisory agent in the Department of Homeland Security was convicted by a San Diego federal jury Friday of lying to FBI investigators about providing confidential information to fraudsters as part of a multi-million-dollar immigration scam.

Johnny Martin, 60, of Chula Vista, was convicted following 11 hours of jury deliberations for denying to the FBI that he sent confidential information from law enforcement databases to Hardev Panesar and Rafael Hastie, two men who orchestrated a scam based on false promises of providing green cards to undocumented immigrants.

Prosecutors say Martin provided information regarding the immigration status and criminal history of victims, which Panesar and Hastie used to defraud them. Panesar and Hastie posed as DHS agents and “conned immigrants into paying exorbitant fees for the promise of green cards they would never see.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, more than 100 victims were affected and the scheme was furthered by the information provided by Martin, which served to legitimize Panesar and Hastie’s status as federal agents.

Prosecutors alleged he emailed the information to Hastie, though Martin denied it. “This immigration scam was successful, in part, because a government agent betrayed his badge and then lied about it,” U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said. “No one, including members of the law enforcement community, is above the law.”

Panesar and Hastie have pleaded guilty in their fraud case. Hastie was sentenced to 46 months in custody, while Panesar awaits sentencing Oct. 9.

Martin faces a maximum five-year prison term, though the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not provide a sentencing date.

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