In July 2013, police responded to a call from a movie theater near Flint, Michigan, about a man who had arrived to a screening of the Bruce Willis action movie Red 2 wearing body armor and carrying a loaded Beretta 9mm pistol.
Officers entered the theater while the film was playing, approached the armed man, whose name was Cassidy Delavergne, and asked him to step outside. Delavergne told them that he was with the Central Intelligence Agency, and flashed a genuine-looking CIA badge along with an agency ID with his picture on it.
But something didn't seem right, and the FBI was called in. The badge and the ID turned out to be highly accurate counterfeits, and Delavergne was arrested for possessing a phony insignia of a US official.
International authorities are now targeting the alleged source of that fake CIA badge: a 34-year-old Romanian national named Roberto Craciunica who is believed to be living in Germany, and who has claimed to make theatrical props for major Hollywood movies, according to a source close to the investigation.
US prosecutors accuse Craciunica of selling forged versions of badges carried by officers from a host of US federal agencies through a series of web sites, including www.badge-police.com and www.master-equipment.org, managed by a company called Master Equipment. (Federal authorities have since seized the domain names.)
The case of the phony CIA officer in Michigan was just one in a string of arrests of individuals carrying real weapons while impersonating federal officials with badges acquired from Master Equipment.
On Wednesday, Interpol revealed that it had issued a "red notice" for Craciunica's arrest on behalf of the US Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — one of the agencies whose badges Craciunica is alleged to have counterfeited.
The red notice, which is similar to an international arrest warrant, was issued earlier this month, said LaTonya Turner, a spokesperson for Interpol.
Craciunica and various unnamed associates "operated websites to offer these counterfeit and unauthorized badges and seals for sale to individuals inside the United States," according to an indictment filed by US Attorney Dana J. Boente last October in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The indictment says Craciunica conspired from January 2010 to September 2015 to traffic badges replicating those worn by the personnel of such entities as the CIA, the FBI, the US Marshals Service, the Federal Air Marshals, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Customers would send money via Western Union or PayPal, and Master Equipment would ship the badges from Kaarst, a suburb of Düsseldorf.
The indictment charges Craciunica with conspiracy, trafficking in counterfeit goods, smuggling, and misuse of US federal agency names. The trafficking in counterfeit goods charge alone carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $2,000,000 fine.
"The sale of counterfeit law enforcement badges and credentials poses a national security risk to American citizens," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations field office in Washington, DC. "Through our investigation, we identified specific instances across the country where Craciunica's customers — most armed with weapons — compromised our country's national security, including trying to gain access to a Department of Defense nuclear command and a secure area of one of the nation's busiest airports."
Hollywood Props Gone Wrong?
Craciunica has claimed to be a professional craftsman who makes theatrical props for Hollywood feature films, according to a person familiar with the details of the investigation who spoke to VICE News on condition of anonymity.
The claim could not be independently verified. But a mini-bio for a stage designer named Roberto Craciunica appears on the Internet Movie Database website.
"Roberto Craciunica worked for the federal police. In 2008, he began to design and create fictitious police equipment, unique costumes and equipment for several reputable Hollywood movies," the IMDb entry says. "He is also lead designer on many well-received productions, most recently Hollywood Movies, while assisting on high profile productions."
A Facebook page for a designer named Roberto Craciunica prominently features the Warner Bros. logo. It presents Craciunica as a "Film Designer for Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures and many more," and lists various awards, including the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion.
Representatives of Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures didn't immediately return requests for comment.
Fake Badges, Real Guns
In addition to the phony CIA agent in the Michigan movie theater, the indictment lists several other cases of armed private citizens masquerading as US federal agents using phony badges said to have been sourced from Master Equipment.
In January 2014, a man named Kermit Stephens attempted to use a counterfeit CIA badge to gain access to a secure area of Reagan International Airport in Washington, DC. Stephens presented the badge to Transportation Security Agency officers at a checkpoint for law enforcement officers flying armed.
But while Stephens was signing into the officers' logbook, an officer noticed inconsistencies in his credentials. Stephens was ultimately arrested three months later. His CIA badge (#767) "is sold by Master Equipment in Germany," the indictment says.
The following April, a man named Josh Mazuranic was arrested at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Houston, Texas, for impersonating a police officer. He was carrying a counterfeit CIA badge (#101), assault rifles, armor piercing ammunition, body armor, and patches identifying him as an ICE officer.
Mazuranic told investigators that he bought the badge overseas. The indictment notes that "CIA badge #101 is sold on Master Equipment's website."
That same month, in Santa Clara, California, a man named Jason Harris came to the attention of authorities after attempting to get emergency lights installed on his vehicle using a counterfeit US Marshals Service badge and credentials.
A search warrant executed at Harris's residence turned up three Marshals Service badges, a counterfeit Bureau of Prisons badge, raid jackets, body armor, and other counterfeit credentials. Harris told investigators that he had purchased the badges from Master Equipment in Germany.
On August 6, 2015, David Baer was indicted in the Central District of Illinois for impersonating a federal law enforcement agent after purchasing a counterfeit badge for Homeland Security Investigations and having it delivered to his home in Springfield, Illinois. Baer used the fake badge to get onto the Naval Nuclear Training Command base while armed with a Sig Sauer pistol.
Armed men impersonating federal agents aren't the only customers of Master Equipment, however.
An unboxing video uploaded to YouTube in 2013 depicts an adolescent boy showing off an Los Angeles Police Department detective badge that he says he purchased from Master Equipment.
"Hello, guys. I just unboxed my new LAPD Detective badge," the boy says. "It's from Master Equipment. It's just $75."
The badge holder was an extra $39.