An actual ICE agent.
An actual ICE agent.
Image: Getty

Rarely does a story involving Immigration and Customs Enforcement, explosives, and a man trying to escape his own sense of inadequacy through law enforcement cosplay end in anything but tragedy for innocent parties, so please allow me to relay to you an incredible tale about how one sad man’s fantasy—guns, improvised explosives, and a desire to align himself with a racist agency—spun out of control and landed him in jail.


The Sacramento Bee reports that, for months!, 26-year-old Matthew Johnston posed as an ICE agent to impress his girlfriend, parents, daughter, and friends. Now, however, he will be spending the next two years in federal prison after he pled guilty to possessing an unregistered explosive. Poor guy.

Johnston was so committed to the role, the Sacramento Bee reports, that he had ICE badges, uniforms, and red and blue police lights:

Nearly all the trappings of Johnston’s life in Fontana, California, suggested he had a job with the federal law enforcement agency, according to court records: He wore ICE badges and uniforms. He used blue and red police lights on his car. He had a tactical vest that said “federal agent.” Johnston described his job on Facebook as “fugitive apprehension” for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes ICE.


He lived the life well:

He once flashed his fake police lights to pursue another car, which caused a collision, prosecutors said. On another occasion, he posed as an ICE agent to speak with someone about a possible undocumented person. Johnston also bragged that he was an ICE agent to patrons and workers at Déjà Vu Showgirls, a strip club in Industry, California, prosecutors said.

But Johnston’s lie came undone last October, after a cop pulled his girlfriend over at a traffic stop after she accidentally turned on the fake police lights in her boyfriend’s Audi. The officer followed up with ICE to verify the woman’s claim that Johnston was an agent with the Department of Homeland Security, but found no such record.

From there, things got worse for our man Johnston. About a week later, real federal agents showed up at his home with a search warrant “and uncovered 32 firearms, about 10,000 rounds of ammunition, cannon fuses, homemade rocket launchers, homemade rockets and other destructive devices.”


There’s more! According to prosecutors, officials also found “a host of homemade explosives — including five unexploded or semi-exploded improvised devices, what was left of an exploded pipe bomb and an expended smoke grenade” in a stockpile Johnston hid in the desert.

Like every story about male inadequacy, Johnston tried to justify his illicit actions and criminal behavior by saying that a woman once embarrassed him:

When officers spoke to Johnston that day, he said he pretended to be an ICE agent “because his ex-wife had insulted him in front of his daughter and told his daughter that he had done nothing with his life.” He decided to concoct the ICE story “to show everyone that he was ‘somebody’ and had done something with his life,” he said, according to court records.


Now poor Matthew Johnston will never realize his full fantasy, which apparently included the ability to racially profile people of color without impunity and help tear apart families. Bye! Read the full, incredible report here.

Prachi Gupta is a senior reporter at Jezebel.

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