A Hanover, Maryland, man faces multiple charges after police said he posed as law enforcement and extorted money from area Latino business owners.
Christopher Jefferson, 41, was “going to mostly Hispanic-owned businesses, presenting himself as a detective or an agent of a federal authority, and soliciting money for a charity that he was running,” said Anne Arundel County police in a press conference Friday.
Jefferson solicited donations for the so-called “TSI Trinity Syndicates Impact,” which he claimed was a charity that helped the Latino community, police said.
One victim said Jefferson, also known as Christopher Tate, posed as an Anne Arundel County police officer and offered tax breaks and help with business permits in exchange for a donation to his charity. During this exchange, Jefferson called an actual community outreach officer to the scene under the guise of facilitating a relationship between the officer and the victim. Police said the officer was not aware that he was being used to give Jefferson credibility.
On other occasions, Jefferson took pictures with police officers during public events and showed them to victims as proof that he was a law enforcement officer, police said.
Another victim said they feared consequences after Jefferson identified himself as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.
“He found a niche,” said police Chief Timothy Altomare. “He has done similar things in other parts of this county to take advantage of that niche, and to use our almost fever-pitch efforts to connect with the Latino community to his advantage.”
Altomare said police officers were introduced to Jefferson as a volunteer last winter, when he helped distribute presents to children whose families could not afford them.
Police learned about the alleged fraud last month and arrested Jefferson on Thursday after searching his home in Hanover and finding a ballistic shield.
Police said they know of at least two victims, one in Annapolis and one in the western part of the county, but believe there are other victims in the county and other parts of the state. They are asking anyone with more information to call police at (410) 222-6155.
Altomare said the fraud has threatened progress in the relationship between the police department and the Latino community.
“We have too many pitfalls between us and the immigrant community already; I have too many people already afraid to come talk to me,” he said. “The potential is there to put us back another two decades.”
He added that anyone who reaches out to police about the case will not be asked about their immigration status.
Jefferson has been charged with theft by fraud, possession of ballistic body armor, impersonating a police officer, use of a false government ID or document, and use of fraudulent identification to avoid prosecution. Read a Spanish-language version of Jefferson’s arrest and charges here.
WTOP’s John Domen contributed to this report.