SEATTLE — A Lake Stevens con man was sentenced to five years in prison Monday after impersonating an FBI agent and stealing more than $125,000 from Seattle-area businesses.
Steven Fisher, 44, used fake credentials of famous fictional and real people to commit his crimes.
In one case he used a phony search warrant that came from a website and was signed by “Frank Abagnale,” a prolific real-life impostor who took on many identities and who Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed in the movie “Catch Me If You Can.”
Real FBI agents as well as Seattle police eventually caught up with him. Fisher pleaded guilty in July to one count of robbery, five counts of impersonation of a federal officer, and one count of attempted robbery.
U.S. District Judge James L. Robart on Monday made note of the fact that the defendant preyed on immigrants.
“This was a long-term calculated crime … attacking a marginalized community,” the judge said. “You picked the most vulnerable group of people I know of. … You did a despicable thing to people who deserved better.”
In one case, a Seattle owner of a money-wiring business reported being robbed. He told investigators he heard a knock on the front door of his business one evening. A man wearing a black three-piece suit with a red dress shirt identified himself as an FBI agent. He flashed a silver badge and said he had a search warrant. He accused the owner of conducting a bad transaction, according to court papers.
The owner showed the man his transactions. Fisher told him he needed to go through boxes in a storage room.
The owner questioned the stranger and that’s when Fisher pulled a fake firearm. He ordered the owner to open a safe and remove cash. He grabbed a computer tower and locked the owner in a back room before fleeing.
A day later, the manager of a Seattle-area wiring service reported a suspicious encounter with a man who claimed to be an FBI agent. The man identified himself as Jack Ryan.
He warned the man that the FBI had information about a robber who planned to hit the business. He urged the man to remove all the cash from the store in case someone broke in. The manager said he’d have to check in with his supervisor. The suspect left but called later, asking about the cash and what kind of surveillance cameras were in use.
The man called 911. He called police a month later when the same man showed up again. Fisher removed fake FBI credentials from a briefcase. He said the robbery suspect had been arrested and he was there to collect surveillance files from the store.
Seattle police converged on the business, finding Fisher there. He told officers he was wiring money and denied posing as an FBI agent. He reported that his car was parked out back. Officers found it five blocks away.
It was later searched and police found an airsoft rifle, duct tape and leg manacles. They also discovered a sniper suit, a Seattle City Light helmet, vest, goggles and marking paint. Stowed in the vehicle was a laptop, a two-way radio, body armor and a handgun with ammo.
Police searched his briefcase. Inside, they found a bifold wallet with fraudulent FBI credentials for “Jack Ryan.” The briefcase also held several pairs of handcuffs, bear spray, bolt cutters, a garrote, rope, black gloves and a realistic-looking gun with a silencer.
Seattle police later searched an Everett storage unit rented by Fisher. Inside was paperwork taken from the robbery, according to court documents.
Police also heard from another business that had allegedly been targeted by Fisher in June. Once again the suspect allegedly claimed to be an FBI agent and wanted to talk about security cameras at the business.
The owner was suspicious and told Fisher he was too busy to talk.
The business was broken into the next morning. About $2,000, three phones and documents containing sensitive information were taken.
“Robbery is a frightening crime, especially when it appears to be at the hands of someone in law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “This defendant’s actions were no joke — he did real harm to real people who were just trying to run their small businesses and thought they were responding to requests from a federal law enforcement officer. The victims will likely never look at a law enforcement officer the same way again.”
The judge ordered Fisher to pay $125,000 in restitution.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.