Several officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency have come forward with bombshell allegations against their colleagues at Newark Airport in New Jersey.
Three officers told NBC New York they were sexually assaulted as part of disturbing rituals that involved being duct-taped to a table other officers called the “rape table.” The victims said that while no one ever removed their clothes, other officers would forcibly rub their genital areas on the victims strapped to the table, as well as grab them. This practice has been happening for years, according to the officers.
One victim said that “hazing” is an understatement of what happened to them.
“Hazing wouldn’t do this justice,” CBP officer Vito Degironimo told NBC. “This is complete assault. They take you in a room and your fellow officers are all watching as officers grab you.”
Diana Cifuentes and Dan Arencibia told the station they managed to avoid the table, but experienced other horrific harassment from colleagues. At one point, Cifuentes said, someone pointed a gun at her in the office.
Degironimo filed an internal complaint after months of alleged abuse, and he and the two others eventually went to a lawyer and are considering a lawsuit.
Charlie Smith, who was identified by the Daily Beast as a CBP agent, corroborated the trio’s allegations in an interview with the news outlet, saying he’s heard stories of 17 similar assaults.
“Everybody has the same story,” he told The Daily Beast. “Their MO is always the same. There’s a supervisor who turned the lights off in the room. They’d call [the victim] into the room, so it was pitch-black when he came in. They threw him down on the table and did what they did.”
Smith, who began working at Newark in 2015, said he was “recently” transferred out for his own protection after he reported the assault against Degironimo to whistleblower hotlines for Senators Ron Johnson and Claire McCaskill.
He also told the Daily Beast that Degironimo had already reported the attack to his own supervisors, but instead of launching an internal investigation, management simply removed the table.
CPB confirmed to HuffPost in a statement that it is working with the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the allegations.
“We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we cooperate fully with all criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, whether it occurs on or off duty,” a CPB spokesperson said in a statement. “An investigation of the hazing allegations is ongoing, led by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General with the assistance of the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility.””