cherriebelle.hibbard

CHERRIEBELLE HIBBARD

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A security guard pleaded guilty to one federal charge of impersonating a United States Marshal in order to kidnap his cousin’s pregnant Filipino wife, bypass three airport security checkpoints and force her onto an airplane to the Philippines.

Gregory Raymond Denny, 38, of Hemet, California, entered the plea last week in San Diego federal court where his wife Karen Denny, 52, also pleaded guilty to aiding him in the January kidnapping of Cherriebelle Magada Gabalonos Hibbard, who was then five months pregnant, according to court records.

In a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, other charges including kidnapping, conspiracy and making false statements to federal agents to bypass airport security were dismissed in exchange for admitting to the scheme, The Press-Enterprise reported.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) admitted the security lapse and said it has strengthened its procedures for anyone presenting themselves as law enforcement at airport checkpoints.

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, called for an investigation into the TSA, but it was deferred by the Department of Homeland Security.

A San Diego attorney for the Dennys did not return calls.

A previous attorney for Denny called it a family misunderstanding and claimed the woman wanted to go to her home in the Philippines where she still remains.

Her immigration visa had recently lapsed and the couple was in the process of seeking a renewal.
Greg Denny originally faced up to life in prison if convicted of all charges.

As part of the plea deal, he now faces a maximum sentence of three years in federal custody and a $250,000 fine.

Prosecutors agreed to sentence Karen Denny to five years probation and mental health counseling.

Cherriebelle gave birth in the Philippines and both mother and baby Czedric are living with Cherriebelle’s parents in Manila.

Hemet police first arrested Gregory Denny in January after Denny’s cousin Craig Hibbard reported Denny came to his home declaring he was there to deport Cherriebelle.

Denny wore a fake U.S. Marshal’s star badge around his neck and a fake gun in a holster as he handcuffed her and led her outside the Hemet home, where Karen Denny patted her down, according to court records.

They drove to the Murrieta border patrol station, where Denny tried to turn Cherriebelle over to be deported, but border patrol agents refused to take her.
Denny claimed she was wanted on a fugitive warrant by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Denny then returned to Hibbard’s home in Hemet, where he forced him to buy a plane ticket and made Craig Hibbard’s mother drive them to the airport.

Denny told Hibbard and Cherriebelle that they would both go to jail for five years if she didn’t leave the country.

At San Diego’s Lindbergh Field, Denny approached airport security where he signed into an airport checkpoint log as a federal agent.

He showed his badge to TSA officers and said he was there to escort a prisoner.

Both Denny and Cherriebelle were allowed to go past three airport checkpoints, and Denny escorted her to her gate on a flight to Manila.

Craig Hibbard said he was under the impression Denny was actually a marshal until days later when he went to report the incident to Hemet police.

Fake badge

When Denny arrived at the police station for questioning, Hemet police recognized his badge was fake and arrested him on suspicion of pretending to be an officer.

A seven-month Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigation led to a federal grand jury indictment of both Denny and his wife.

They both remain free on $50,000 bond.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 24, 2011 in San Diego federal court.