Man impersonating ICE agent forced 15-year-old out of car, seized boy's cellphone

VENTURA, Calif. – A man on Friday pleaded guilty to impersonating a federal officer during an encounter with a teenager and police outside a Southern California mall, officials announced.

Farad Gharagozlou Bell, a 63-year-old Simi Valley man, confronted a 15-year-old boy in the parking lot of the Pacific View Mall on Dec. 2, 2017, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Bell was angry that the teen had already sold a guitar he wanted to buy, prosecutors said. The man saw an ad for the guitar online, the U.S. Attorney's Office added.

The man wore a badge around his neck that apparently had the seal of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, identifying him as a special agent with ICE, according to court documents.

Bell then demanded the boy to get out of a car, where he was sitting with his family, prosecutors said. The man then pushed the teen against the vehicle and patted him down before seizing and looking through the boy's cellphones without permission, officials added.

A bystander called Ventura police. When they arrived, Bell told the officers he was with ICE and had previously worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Police asked him for identification and he produced a card with three purported seals of the DHS and read "UNITED STATES IDENTIFICATION," court documents showed.

Bell later admitted that he never worked for the DEA and that the badge and ID he showed the boy and Ventura police were fake, according to prosecutors. As part of a plea agreement, the U.S. Attorney's Office agreed to recommend a sentence of six months of home detention and 200 hours of community service.

The man faced a maximum sentence of three years in federal prison. He was scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 1.