By Kenneth Lipp
The District Attorney announced yesterday at a lectern in the Ray Harley Training Center conference room that his office had charged Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS ICE) agent Justin Ford with with Theft by Unlawful Taking, Receiving Stolen Property, Official Oppression, and Conspiracy. District Attorney Seth Williams was flanked by DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) Special Agent in Charge Gregory Null, who DA Seth Williams said brought the matter to his office’s attention, and Philly Police Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross.
“Usually it’s the Feds standing up to announce the arrest of a Philadelphia Police officer. Today there’s a twist,” said DA WIlliams.
Agent Ford was caught in a sting operation conducted by a joint task force of the DA’s Office, Philadelphia Police, US Attorney’s Office, and DHS OIG. At the lectern, SAC Null said that the OIG began investigating Ford after receiving reports from transported prisoners that the ICE agent had stolen from them. Null said his office came to the the District Attorney to ask if the DA had someone who could go undercover. “The DA’s office came up with this plan,” said Null.
The plan, according to the press release from the DA’s Office:
On February 24, 2015, Agent Ford and his partner met with Philadelphia Police to take a prisoner, who was actually an undercover Philadelphia Police Officer assigned to the District Attorney’s Office, into custody. Agent Ford’s partner searched the prisoner and found $2,000 in marked bills. Then, once alone with the prisoner, Agent Ford repeatedly asked the prisoner about the money and when the under agent could not verify the amount, Agent Ford returned most of the money to the prisoner.
The intake officer at the York County Prison received the money taken from the undercover officer and turned it over to DHS investigators, who confirmed that $200 was missing. Agent Ford was followed back to Philadelphia and was taken into custody by members of the Philadelphia Police SWAT unit who found the two, marked $100 bills in his possession.
SAC Null told The Declaration that Agent Ford’s partner has not been cleared but that there is no evidence at this time that he participated with Ford or gained from his crimes.
According to DA Williams, Justin Ford broke down in tears immediately upon revelation of the undercover operation. He told investigators he had done the same thing two or three times in the past for a total of about $750, and that he took the money due to personal money problems. An ICE deportation officer in Philadelphia makes from $50-75,000 a year.
The full video of the announcement is below, which includes a final three minutes of Q&A with only the District Attorney (13:09) on the 21st Century Policing Task Force report delivered by Commissioner Charles Ramsey earlier in the morning. In it Seth Williams details where he differs from the Commissioner on a need for a special prosecutor to investigate police misconduct.