Ex-ICE agent accused of impersonating officer to free inmate

Jail officials thwarted the attempt to help the inmate escape

By Roxana Hegeman
Associated Press

WICHITA, Kan. — A former agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been accused of impersonating an immigration officer during a foiled attempt to help an inmate escape from a local jail in Kansas.

A criminal complaint made public Thursday charges Andrew J. Pleviak, 41, with attempted aiding of escape, false impersonation, forgery, making a false information and interference with a law enforcement officer related to the escape attempt last week from the Kingman County jail.

In this photo provided by the Kingman County Sheriff's Office, Andrew John Pleviak is pictured in a booking photo dated Sept. 4, 2019.
In this photo provided by the Kingman County Sheriff's Office, Andrew John Pleviak is pictured in a booking photo dated Sept. 4, 2019. (Kingman County Sheriff's Office via AP)

He was scheduled for his first court appearance Thursday and does not yet have a defense attorney who has entered an appearance on his behalf.

Pleviak is accused of falsely identifying himself to jail officials as ICE Supervisor Doug Thompson, who is an actual ICE agent in Wichita, in several phone calls seeking the release of inmate Juan Diego Tapia-Alfaro, according to a probable cause affidavit. He allegedly told prison officials the inmate was an informant in a huge case ICE had been working on for more than a year and the inmate needed to be released.

Local jail officials contacted ICE officials in Wichita and discovered Thompson had not contacted the jail. Another local ICE agent identified Pleviak's voice on the jail recordings, according to the affidavit. Pleviak was arrested Sept. 3 at the Kingman County Law Enforcement Center when he showed up with a fraudulent federal document for the inmate's release.

Tapia-Alfaro is awaiting trial on unrelated state charges, including charges of identity theft to obtain benefits, and has an ICE detainer lodged against him. He has not been charged related to Pleviak's efforts to free him.

Kingman County Sheriff Randy Hill said Pleviak and the Kingman County inmate he was trying to free had a "working relationship," apparently involving some type of construction work.

The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas has confirmed that Pleviak had been assigned to a halfway house in Wichita to finish serving his own prison sentence in an unrelated federal case at the time of his arrest in Kingman County.

The federal case against Pleviak stemmed from his sending a Wichita television news anchor sensitive law enforcement material while he was employed with ICE in Kansas. KAKE-TV anchor Deb Farris told police in 2017 that Pleviak sent her law enforcement material and texted messages that were sexual in nature. She has said that Pleviak's texts made her uncomfortable and scared her.

Pleviak's defense attorney in that federal case told the court during sentencing last year that his client has mental health issues.

Pleviak was initially sentenced in May 2018 to time served — the six months he was in jail while awaiting trial — plus a year of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to exceeding authorized access to a government computer. But a federal judge later revoked that probation and sentenced him to 12 months in prison for violating the terms of his release by having unauthorized contact with a former employee of the Department of Homeland Security.

Retired ICE supervisor Jeffrey Artman, who was Pleviak's boss for six years at ICE, said in an email following Pleviak's latest arrest that he and his daughter have a protection-from-stalking order against Pleviak.

"The public is only safe when he is locked up," Artman said.

In a separate civil case filed in 2014, an international college student from Kenya who overstayed his visa sued Pleviak and others for violently attacking him at ICE's office in Wichita. The civil lawsuit filed by immigrant Justine Mochama was ultimately dismissed.

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