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Man suspected of posing as an immigration agent is arrested in the San Gabriel Valley

June 7, 2010 | 11:53 am

A 33-year-old man who allegedly posed as an immigration agent and preyed on at least nine Latino immigrants in El Monte and Rosemead has been booked on suspicion of robbery and kidnapping, authorities said Monday.

Noel Gutierrez of El Monte used a commanding voice and a shirt and hat that read ICE to convince people he was with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement before he stole their cash and cellphones, said El Monte Police Det. Ralph Batres.

On Saturday about 4 p.m., Gutierrez rounded up six men in the parking lot of El Monte’s Valley Mall after asking about their immigration status and identification cards, Batres said.

Gutierrez allegedly told the men to put their wallets and cellphones in a plastic bag and walk toward the mall, where another immigration officer would question them further. The men complied and Gutierrez left in the opposite direction, police said.

One of the victims reported the incident to El Monte police, who discovered similar exchanges had occurred earlier in the day in nearby Rosemead.

In the first case, a man claiming to be with the immigration agency forced a man into a tan Toyota Sienna and drove him to a bank so the victim could withdraw money, Batres said.

Later, the same van pulled up to a residence in the 8900 block of Mission Drive. The driver, who was wearing an ICE hat, told the woman inside the home that he was there to check her papers. After searching her home, he took a digital camera and some jewelry.

Detectives traced the van to a hotel in the 11600 block of Garvey Avenue in El Monte on Saturday night, Batres said. After obtaining a search warrant and searching the suspect’s room, detectives discovered the victims’ belongings and arrested Gutierrez.

He was being held at the El Monte police station and was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.

A day after the arrest, Batres said he received a call from an El Monte woman who had also allegedly been robbed by Gutierrez. Batres believes there are more victims who are too scared to come forward.

“Anytime you’re contacted by anyone who appears to be law enforcement, you should ask to see their I.D.,” he said. “If you don’t believe they’re an actual officer, then that’s when you call the police for verification.”

-- Corina Knoll