Reps. Lynch, Markey Seek Probe Into Entry Of Chainsaw-Toting Convicted Criminal Into U.S. Man Apprehended In Massachusetts After Being Permitted To Cross Border In Maine

Jun 13, 2005
{

Washington, DC: Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), a member of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, today sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff seeking answers on why Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors at the Calais, Maine border crossing permitted an individual convicted of assault and carrying a cache of weapons to enter the United States in April.  The individual, Gregory Depres, was scheduled to be sentenced in a Canadian court on assault charges the day he crossed the border in Maine, and on the day after he crossed the border, he was named a prime suspect in a gruesome double murder in Canada.  He was arrested in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, his last known address, and currently is being held on murder charges. 

 "It’s outrageous that a chainsaw-toting convicted criminal claiming to be a Marine working on President Bush’s security detail was allowed to enter the United States.  The bizarre story he spun for Customs inspectors at the border should have raised enough suspicions to prompt inspectors either to arrest him or deny him entry into the United States. We were fortunate that this individual was apprehended in Massachusetts before he could cause further harm and was not a terrorist determined to attack our country,” Rep. Markey said. 

Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, member of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Affairs, said, "What Congressman Markey and I are requesting is an official report from the Secretary of Homeland Security that details whether proper security measures were indeed taken here, and whether we should require agents to take further steps when dealing with suspicious persons like Mr. Despres in the future.”

The letter asks Secretary Chertoff to respond to a series of questions, including:

  • Were CBP inspectors at the Calais crossing aware that Mr. Despres had already been convicted of assault and was due in court to be sentenced for that assault on the day he appeared at the border crossing? 
  • Did CBP inspectors seek criminal history information about Mr. Despres from Canadian or U.S. law enforcement officials prior to letting him enter the U.S?  If not, why not? 
  • What steps did CBP inspectors take to confirm his story that he was a Marine working on President Bush’s security detail? 
  • Is it the position of the Department of Homeland Security that inspectors at the Calais crossing properly handled the situation involving this individual?  If not, what training or other reforms will the Department implement to ensure that CBP inspectors at our borders respond appropriately if similar situations occur in the future? 

A copy of the letter follows:

 

The Honorable Michael Chertoff

Secretary

Department of Homeland Security

Nebraska Avenue  NW

Washington, DC 202528

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We are writing to express our concern about recent press reports that indicate Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors at the Calais, Maine border crossing permitted an individual transporting a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw apparently stained with blood to enter the United States from Canada on April 25, 2005 ("Man With Chain Saw, Sword Is Let Into U.S.”, Associated Press, June 8, 2005). While CBP inspectors reportedly confiscated these weapons and fingerprinted the individual, Gregory Despres, they ultimately allowed him to cross the border into the United States.  It has been determined that on the same day he crossed the border, Mr. Despres was scheduled to be sentenced in a Canadian court on assault charges, and on the day after he crossed the border, Mr. Despres was named a prime suspect in a gruesome double murder in Canada.

This chilling case raises serious questions about security procedures at our border crossings.  We would appreciate the Department’s responses to the following questions:

(1)    Were CBP inspectors at the Calais crossing aware that Mr. Despres had already been convicted of assault and was due in court to be sentenced for that assault on the day he appeared at the border crossing?  If yes, why was he nonetheless permitted to enter the United States?  If no, did CBP inspectors seek this or other related criminal history information about Mr. Despres from Canadian or U.S. law enforcement officials prior to letting him enter the U.S?  If CBP did not seek criminal history information about the Mr. Despres, why not?  Would information about Mr. Depres’ previous arrest for assault have enabled CBP inspectors to deny entry or arrest Mr. Despres at the border crossing?

 

(2)    According to media reports, Mr. Jayson Ahern, CBP assistant commissioner for field operations, confirmed that Mr. Despres told CBP inspectors that he was a sergeant in the U.S. Marines who worked for President Bush.  News accounts suggest that he also boasted of being responsible for "700 kills” as a trained sniper.  While detaining Mr. Despres, did CBP contact the Marine Corps to confirm Mr. Despres’s account?  If yes, what was the outcome of this communication?  If not, why not?  Did CBP inspectors contact the Secret Service to confirm Mr. Despres’ claim that he worked for President Bush?  If yes, what was the outcome of this communication?  If not, why not?

(3)    In the words of Mr. Ahern, Mr. Despres "certainly did demonstrate bizarre behavior” at the Calais crossing.[1]  As you know, lying to a federal investigator and falsely claiming to be a federal employee are both federal offenses that would have provided justification for CBP inspectors to arrest Mr. Despres.[2]  Should Mr. Despres’ strange conduct have cast doubt on the veracity of the claims he made to CBP inspectors regarding his service in the Marines and his role on President Bush’s security detail? 

(4)    The Associated Press quotes customs official William Heffelfinger as follows:  "We did not allow him to leave the port with the chain saw, the sword, the brass knuckles or the handcuffs - all of that we seized. So when he left the port he wasn’t armed with anything."  Did Mr. Despres attempt to conceal any of these materials while crossing into the U.S.?  Is attempting to conceal dangerous items such as weapons from CBP inspectors sufficient reason to deny entry?

(5)    Do you agree with Mr. Ahern that CBP inspectors at the Calais crossing properly handled the situation involving Mr. Despres?  If not, what training or other reforms will the Department implement to ensure that CBP inspectors at our borders respond appropriately if similar situations occur in the future?  Is the Department investigating the circumstances of this particular case?  If yes, when will the investigation be concluded?  If not, why not?

We were fortunate that Mr. Despes was apprehended before he could cause further harm and that he was not a terrorist intent on attacking our country.  We look forward to the Department’s responses to our questions.  If you have questions, please contact Mr. Mark Bayer in Rep. Markey’s office at 202-225-2836 or Mr. Bruce Fernandez in Rep. Lynch’s office at 202-225-8273

Sincerely,

 

 

 

______________________                                        ______________________

Edward J. Markey                                                        Stephen F. Lynch

cc.

The Honorable Robert Bonner

Commissioner

Customs and Border Protection

Department of Homeland Security



[1]"Congressman questioning a 'bizarre' border crossing”, The Boston Globe, June 9, 2005.

[2] Title 18 U.S.C. 1001:  "[W]hoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully - (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;  (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or  (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.”  Title 18 U.S.C. 912: "Whoever falsely assumes or pretends to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department,  agency or officer thereof, and acts as such, or in such pretended character demands or obtains any money, paper, document, or thing of value, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.” 

 

-30-