A Seattle man has pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to charges alleging he impersonated a federal prosecutor in a telephone call from the Snohomish County Jail and smooth-talked the U.S. Marshal’s Office into lifting a federal hold on him so he could bail out.
Muhammed Zbeida Tillisy, a convicted forger with a long history of failing to follow court orders, including charges of escape, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida in Seattle on Thursday. Tsuchida ordered him held pending a Dec. 2 trial date.
Tillisy was arrested last month and indicted by a federal grand jury last week on 10 counts, including false statement to a federal agency, aggravated identity theft and impersonating a federal officer. Court documents indicate that Tillisy has been under investigation by the U.S. Secret Service since June 2012 in connection with the “misuse of the means of identification of various government officials and institution by the defendant.”
According to a complaint, Tillisy was released from federal prison on Feb. 22, 2012, after a 2009 conviction for conspiracy to commit access-device fraud. In March, his probation officer issued a warrant for his arrest alleging “numerous violations” of the conditions of his release, including new allegations of check forgery and identity theft.
He was arrested on May 31, 2012, by state authorities and booked into the Snohomish County Jail. There, the U.S. Marshal’s Office placed a “detainer” on him, ensuring that if was released on the state charges for any reason, he would go directly into federal custody on the pending warrant, according to a sworn affidavit by Secret Service Special Agent John Wurster.
Wurster said that on Sept. 10, 2012, Tillisy called an associate from a jail telephone, and had that individual forward his call to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle, where he presented himself as a deputy Snohomish County prosecutor to a receptionist and asked for the name of the assistant U.S. Attorney who was handling his own case. Once Tillisy had the name, he hung up before she could transfer him, according to the charges.
An hour later, apparently using another jail inmate’s telephone access code, Tillisy called the associate again.
Waiting until after a recorded warning that the call was from a jail inmate, Tillisy had his associate open a conference call to the U.S. Marshal’s Office. His associate muted his telephone while Tillisy – identifying himself as the assistant U.S. attorney – persuaded a deputy marshal to fax a release for the detainer, saying federal charges were being dropped. According to the charges, the detainer was removed later that day.
The next day, on Sept. 11, 2012, Tillisy posted a $25,000 bail bond and fled. He was arrested by the U.S. Marshal’s Office two days later.