WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is facing federal charges after a Wichita television news anchor told local police that he was sending her sensitive law enforcement material and text messages that were sexual in nature, newly released court documents show.
KAKE-TV Anchor Deb Farris was interviewed by the Wichita Police Department in March during which officers photographed about 185 screen shots of text messages between her and ICE Agent Andrew J. Pleviak, according to a probable cause affidavit. Farris also told police she was contemplating applying for a protection from stalking order, but had not yet done so. It is not clear if authorities are still investigating the alleged harassment.
Farris told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Pleviak first came to her asking to be her source, saying he had all kinds of information she would need for future stories.
“Then all of a sudden it turned inappropriate and he was texting me things that made me uncomfortable and I got scared,” she said, adding she contacted the Wichita Police Department who advised her to put up security cameras and make a police report. She then agreed to be interviewed by police.
The probable cause affidavit was made public Monday after authorities filed in court the executed search warrant that was sent to Apple Computer Inc. Apple granted authorities access to Pleviak’s iCloud storage account that contained information he had allegedly deleted from his government-issued cellphone.
Federal prosecutors indicted Pleviak in July with two counts of exceeding authorized access to a government computer for accessing information from the National Crime Information Center and one count of destruction of records in a federal investigation. He was jailed after allegedly violating his bond conditions and now faces a competency hearing on Feb. 5. It is unclear whether he is still employed with ICE.
ICE emailed a statement saying all Department of Homeland Security employees are held “to the highest standards of behavior and ethics,” but declined to comment on his employment.
Pleviak’s defense attorney, Stephen Ariagno, declined to comment.
Journalists typically go to great lengths to shield sources who provide confidential information.
“It is a shame if the only way she could stop him was going to the police to out him in terms of being someone who provided confidential government information. It is a shame, but the larger issue here is her safety,” said Pam Fine, a journalism professor at the University of Kansas.
The case had not been reported by the media until The Associated Press on Monday found the search warrant case during a routine check of new court filings. The indictment against Pleviak did not identify him as an ICE agent, and it had scant details of the nature of the charges against him.
KAKE News Editor Anthony Maisel said the station did not report the story at the time because they were concerned for Farris’ safety and did not want to antagonize him.
“There is a difference between being a source and providing information for the good of the public and for a source to go off the rails and become a threat,” Maisel said. “What people tell us is in confidence and we don’t share that information with anybody. But if that source became an unstable source, certainly we would look out for the welfare of our reporters.”
Homeland Security Investigations Agent Brian Beach wrote in his probable cause affidavit supporting the search warrant that Pleviak provided Farris in November 2016 with copies of computerized criminal history reports for suspects. He was responding to text messages from Farris on two murder cases being investigated in Wichita involving immigrants in the country illegally.
“We never used a single thing he gave — nothing was really relevant,” Farris said.
Two days after Wichita police interviewed Farris, Pleviak’s supervisor ordered him to immediately relinquish his government-issued iPhone according to the affidavit. Beach’s affidavit also cited a September email in which Pleviak allegedly admitted remotely deleting information from the phone.
When prosecutors sought in October to revoke his bond they alleged Pleviak had been released from an inpatient substance abuse program for violations of rules and concerns he could be a risk to female residents of the program. The petition noted his wife had also reported he was trying to obtain a firearm and that he had been arrested in October by Wichita police, but court records do not show any other publicly-filed state charges.
In a separate case filed in 2014, an international college student from Kenya who overstayed his visa sued Pleviak and others for violently attacking him at ICE’s office in Wichita. The civil lawsuit filed by immigrant Justine Mochama was ultimately dismissed.
Associated Press Researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this story