HEMET, Calif. – A Southern California man was charged Friday with falsely deporting his cousin's wife to the Philippines by posing as a U.S. marshal.
A federal indictment unsealed Friday in San Diego accuses Gregory Denny, 37, and his wife Karen, 52, of kidnapping, conspiracy and other crimes that carry a potential life sentence.
The Hemet couple were jailed without bail and it wasn't immediately clear whether they had obtained an attorney.
Police said Denny and his wife barged into his cousin's home in January. Denny flashed a phony badge and a replica gun and handcuffed his cousin's wife of three years, Cherriebelle Hibbard, claiming she was in the U.S. illegally, police said.
Craig Hibbard told police that immigration officials had told recently told Cherriebelle, who was five months pregnant at the time, she could stay in the U.S. while she waited for a reissued green card to be processed.
Hibbard later said he didn't question his cousin because he had a U.S. Marshals shirt on and a badge. Three days later, when he called the U.S. Marshals Service, they told him Denny was not an agent.
Denny has said that Hibbard's father told him Cherriebelle was in the country illegally and the couple was having problems at home.
Denny and his wife drove Cherriebelle to a Border Patrol Station in Murrieta where they told agents that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had issued a fugitive warrant for her arrest, according to the indictment. The agents refused to take her into custody.
They later took her to their home, called Craig Hibbard and told him to buy his wife a plane ticket to the Philippines, according to the indictment. They told her that she and her husband would go to jail for five years if she didn't leave the U.S.
Then they drove her to the San Diego International Airport, where Denny told Transportation Security Administration staff that he was escorting a prisoner to a flight. Cherriebelle flew to Manila alone and remains there without a green card.
She has said that she never met Denny and didn't realize he was her husband's cousin.
In February U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked the Department of Homeland Security for documents related to the incident to determine whether TSA staff followed procedures or were poorly trained.
Gregory and Karen Denny will appear in court on Monday.