Three Customs and Border Patrol agents have been arrested after their colleagues in Newark Airport’s Passenger Enforcement Roving Team alleged the agents verbally abused and physically harassed them on a “rape table” in Terminal C.
CNN reports that Tito Catota, 38, Parmenio I. Perez, 40, and Michael Papagni, 32, have been charged with forcibly assaulting, impeding, intimidating and interfering with two male officers. They face up to eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“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 US Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “This behavior would be abhorrent in any environment, especially one serving a critical law enforcement function.”
Officer Vito Degironimo spoke out about the abuse in May, telling NBC New York, “Hazing wouldn’t do this justice. This is complete assault. They take you in a room and your fellow officers are all watching as officers grab you.”
“Once the lights go out, they grab you up like a gang, and they forcibly throw you on the table and one officer actually ends up mounting me and pretty much riding me like a horse,” he said. “They called the table itself the rape table, and call this act ‘raping.’”
CBP responded to the allegations by putting 11 employees on administrative duty and suspended their access to firearms and databases, including three supervisors. A spokesperson said on Wednesday that the agency “welcomes these indictments and fully supported the Office of the Inspector General-led investigation.”
“We do not tolerate misconduct in our ranks and are committed to a safe workplace environment free of harassment or intimidation,” the spokesperson said.