Three Customs and Border Protection officers assigned to a specialized screening team at Newark Airport were arrested Wednesday for assaulting fellow officers, allegedly pinning the victims to what was known as a “rape table,” according to court records.
Tito Catota, Parmenio Perez and Michael Papagni are charged with forcibly assaulting, impeding, intimidating, and interfering with two men identified in court documents as “Victim One” and “Victim Two” while the victims were on duty as CBP officers.
The three officers and the alleged victims were part of the same unit that is involved in the identification and interception of passengers attempting to bring contraband into the United States or who might be associated with terrorist activity.
“The defendants, who were members of a unit responsible for identifying dangerous contraband and threats to national security, allegedly subjected their own colleagues to senseless physical abuse, all while on duty at Newark Liberty International Airport,” acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick said.
According to court records, the officers locked the victims in a secure room in Newark’s Terminal C and pinned them to a conference table that the CBP officers called their “rape table.” No clothing was removed but court records said the victims were subjected to “grinding” and the simulation of a sex act.
“This behavior would be abhorrent in any environment, especially one serving a critical law enforcement function,” Fitzpatrick said.
The Department of Homeland Security is conducting an investigation.
“DHS employees pledge to maintain the highest standards of conduct and the OIG ensures those employees are held accountable when they violate that obligation,” Special Agent in Charge Mark Tasky said.
The three officers appeared in Newark federal court Wednesday and did not enter pleas. They will be released on $100,000 bail. If convicted, they could face eight years in prison for each count.
CBP said it welcomed the indictments.
“We do not tolerate misconduct in our ranks and are committed to a safe workplace environment free of harassment or intimidation,” spokesman Anthony Bucci said. The agency first became aware of the alleged misconduct in January. At the time, 11 Newark employees, including three supervisors, were put on administrative duty and stripped of their access to guns, badges and sensitive information. The three supervisors have since been fired.
It was not immediately clear whether the accused had obtained lawyers.