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Man sentenced to six years in prison for pretending to be DHS agent on TikTok

A man has been sentenced to six years in prison for pretending to be a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agent on TikTok.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has said that Reyel Simmons, from Minnesota, has been found guilty of impersonating a federal officer on the social media platform.

The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota announced on Friday that the Dodge County man was “sentenced to 72 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for impersonating a federal officer and illegally possessing firearms as a felon”.

Court documents state that the FBI received a tip concerning Simmons, 53, on 17 August 2021. He used the fake name “Rey Reeves” on TikTok, garnering almost 10,000 followers.

DOJ said in a press release that Simmons “used a profile photo that showed him wearing law enforcement gear and made several posts displaying law enforcement equipment, badges, and firearms, and referring explicitly and implicitly to himself as a federal agent”.

The agency said that Simmons has never worked at DHS, adding that he has never been a law enforcement officer on any level. He also hasn’t had the “authority to act on behalf of any federal agency or department”, DOJ said.

Court documents say he used to carry a backpack that he called his “go bag”. The bag had the DHS emblem, and contained a Glock handgun as well as a fake DHS badge and “other items related to Simmons’s supposed service in law enforcement and the military”.

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The Department of Justice have said that Reyel Simmons pretended to be a DHS agent on TikTok

(Screenshots / US District Court for the District of Minnesota)

Law enforcement found eight firearms in Simmons’ home, including both handguns and rifles. Some of the weapons were “discovered in a ‘safe room’ or bunker that could be accessed only through a hidden doorway located in a storage area of the basement”, DOJ said.

The agency added that Simmons also admitted to having unregistered silencers and suppressors, a detonating cord, a blasting cap, thousands of rounds of ammunition, body armour with law enforcement emblems, as well as “other law enforcement style badges, clothing, bags, and identification documents”.

Following a previous felony conviction in Colorado, federal law prohibits Simmons from owning guns, ammunition, or explosives. He was sentenced on Thursday by US District Judge Eric Tostrud after pleading guilty on 21 January of this year to one count of impersonating an officer of the United States and one count of possessing firearms as a felon.

The complaint charging Simmons in September of last year states that the person who reported Simmons to the FBI was a woman who had encountered him on the platform in February 2021 and entered into a relationship with him, meeting several times as they travelled before Minnesota and her home state of Georgia.

The woman, who was only identified as BA in the legal filing, told the authorities that Simmons told her that DHS was paying for their stays at Minnesota hotels. She added that he claimed that he was engaged in an undercover assignment, Insider noted.

The woman spotted a rifle in his Ford vehicle, adding that he told her he was previously a Navy SEAL and that he showed her a photo of him in military gear. She grew suspicious when she saw a TikTok comment saying that he was impersonating an officer. Simmons changed the settings on his account to private following the incident, but BA contacted the commenter, who revealed evidence of his real identity as well as his earlier conviction in Colorado. She later reported Simmons to the authorities, without telling him.

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