Two men were arrested and charged with posing as a federal officer after pretending to be US marshals to avoid wearing masks at a South Florida resort, according to a criminal complaint.
Walter Wayne Brown Jr., 53, and Gary Brummett, 81, flashed mask exemption cards and fake US Marshal badges to circumvent hotel mask rules, according to the criminal complaint filed with of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. They were arrested last week after a real US Marshal was sent to the hotel to validate their claims.
The men were invited to the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort, a beachfront hotel in Broward County, Florida. The resort did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the arrests, which were reported by The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
During their confrontations with station staff, both men wore “authentic-looking” circular badges with a seven-pointed star that read “Cherokee Nation Marshal” and “Aniyvwiya Criminal Justice Deputy,” according to the report. complaint.
Around their neck, plastic cards bearing the words “NOTICE / FACE MASK EXEMPT CARD”. The cards said they were “exempt from any ordinance requiring the use of a face mask in public” and that “wearing a face mask presented me with a mental and / or physical risk”.
“Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I am not obligated to disclose my terms to you,” the cards read. The cards also listed true violations of the ADA reporting the phone number.
While there, Mr Brummett approached the front desk to ask for coffee, according to the criminal complaint. When an employee working at the front desk asked him to wear a mask, Mr Brummett presented the face mask exemption card and said the hotel would be fined $ 75,000 if forced to wear a mask. Then he showed a badge on his belt and threatened to arrest the employee.
“Do you know what this means? I am an American Marshal and I can get you arrested if you force me to wear a mask,” Mr. Brummett said, according to the complaint.
On two occasions, Mr Brown showed a similar card and US Marshal identification to hotel managers when asked to wear a mask in the common areas of the resort, according to the complaint.
Hotel staff “thought it odd that a federal agent would dispute the wearing of a mask,” according to the complaint, so they informed the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, who called a real US Marshal to investigate the authenticity of the allegations. .
The men have never been employed by the US Marshals Service or the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, based in North Carolina and Oklahoma, according to the complaint.
The men were arrested on February 11, according to records from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. If found guilty, the men face a fine or up to three years in prison.
Tony Moss, a lawyer representing Mr. Brummett, declined to comment. A lawyer for Mr Brown did not immediately respond to inquiries.
Fraudulent cards that claim to offer exemptions to hide the rules have been circulating since the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. At one point, a group called the Freedom to Breathe Agency sold the cards online in boxes of at least 500 for $ 49.99. Federal officials said the cards were neither issued nor approved by the Department of Justice.
Although health officials, including those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend wearing a face covering in public to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, there remains resistance among some who view the mask rules as a violation of personal freedom.
Kitty bennett contributed to the research.