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Broker Poses as DEA Agent

John D. Cohen accused of posing as government agent

March 15, 2006

By PATRICK CROWLEY


A California mortgage broker faces prison for fraud. But he isn't accused of committing mortgage fraud -- he's accused of impersonating a government Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

John D. Cohen had the tools of a good DEA agent. At his Northern California residence he kept weapons, DEA apparel, handcuffs, police scanners, bullet proof vests and a badge.

But Cohen isn't a DEA agent. He's a mortgage broker who has been charged with impersonating a government agent.

Cohen, 37, a broker at Hilltop Financial Mortgage Inc. in Pleasanton, CA, faces up to five years in prison if convicted of the charges, according to a statement released by the DEA and the U.S. Justice Department.

"Impersonating a DEA agent is a very serious offense because it undermines the public trust necessary for DEA agents to safely do their jobs," Special Agent Gordon Taylor of the DEA's Sacramento office said in a statement. "This guy wanted to be on the inside.

"Well, he'll get that opportunity when real DEA agents take him to jail and put him behind bars," Taylor said.

Federal authorities began their investigation on Feb. 27, after Cohen allegedly falsely identified himself as a DEA agent, and presented a fake DEA badge, while entering the federal courthouse in Sacramento.

The court security officer happened to be a retired DEA special agent. He became suspicious and contacted federal authorities, who contacted the DEA.

During their investigation agents learned that a week earlier Cohen sold a 2000 Ford Crown Victoria, the type of vehicle often used by law enforcement, to a security firm that works for the U.S. Coast Guard in Alameda.

Wearing a bogus DEA badge around his neck and a fake DEA jacket Cohen allegedly entered the Coast Guard facility to sell the car by identifying himself as a DEA agent, authorities said.

Cohen then reportedly showed off for the security firm workers by activating "police lights, including red and blue lights above the steering wheel, in the rear and on the passenger visor," according to the statement.

After selling the car, Cohen removed the lights, which police eventually confiscated from his Manteca, CA., home along with two handguns, a shotgun, an Oakland Police Department uniform, forged law enforcement training certificates, emergency equipment, Immigration and Customs Enforcement apparel and law enforcement training manuals.

Authorities also allegedly found something not likely to be in the home of a DEA agent -- several small baggies of marijuana.


Patrick Crowley is a feature journalist and blogger for MortgageDaily.com. He is also a reporter, blogger and columnist for The Cincinnati Enquirer.
e-mail Patrick at: [email protected]


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