In a secure room inside Terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport, Customs and Border Protection officers allegedly maintained a “rape table” on which they engaged in sexual hazing of other officers for several years.
Three CBP officers, all members of the Passenger Enforcement Roving Team, came forward last week and told their stories to NBC 4 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,” CBP officer Vito Degironimo told NBC 4.
“Once the lights go out, they grab you up like a gang, and they forcibly throw you on the table and one officer ended up mounting me and pretty much riding me like a horse,” he said.
“They call this table itself the ‘rape table,'” Degironimo said, referring to a conference table onto which victims would be taped down while veteran officers would grind their genitals against them.
Another officer, Diana Cifuentes, told the station she was afraid for her life. “This is terrorizing. How is it that officers believe they’re free to do whatever they want to do?” She said that while she was not subjected to the “rape table,” she was taped to a chair and had another officer pull a gun on her.
“I was very afraid for my life,” she said. “I took a deep breath and kept on typing like nothing was happening. I know that if I reacted either he was going to pull the trigger or I was going to draw the weapon myself and shoot him.”
A third officer, Dan Arencibia, described how officers would play the “Party Boy” song from MTV’s “Jackass” during the hazing rituals.
“It’s something they played in the past and it becomes their theme for the event,” Arencibia said. “They’re monsters in a sense. They know that we can’t do anything about this.”
All three officers said they were initially too intimidated to make complaints, but when they finally did, the only change was that the table was removed. “There was no punishment for the officers involved,” Degironimo said.
The officers have since filed a lawsuit, and the DHS Inspector General has launched an investigation along with the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility.
CBP said in a statement: “U.S. Customs and Border Protection stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission and the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe.
“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.”
The three officers have been transferred out of Newark for their own safety.