Customs and Border Protection agents at Newark Liberty International airport have been reporting sexually abusive hazing for years, but their supervisors wouldn’t listen. In fact, their response was to have the “rape table,” or conference room table, removed from the room.
According to an agent formerly stationed at the airport, the sexual harassment has continued for years, all with the knowledge of supervisors.
According to The Daily Beast, CBP agent Charlie Smith said that he transferred to Newark Airport in 2015, and there had been ongoing rumors of ritualistic sexual assault in the Customs and Border Protection department long before he started there.
According to the rumors, new airport agents are lured into a dark room where they are restrained, then senior officers grab at their genitals through their clothing. Smith said that these sexual assaults allegedly occurred on a table referred to by both victims and attackers as the “rape table.” According to Smith, one victim reported the attack to supervisors, but CBP higher-ups simply buried the report.
Smith told The Daily Beast that, after he reported a colleague’s attack to Senators Claire McCaskill and Ron Johnson’s whistle-blower hotlines, he was transferred out of Newark Airport for his own safety.
CBP officer Vito Degironimo was the victim of the attack, and he and two other current Newark CBP agents, Diana Cifuentes and Dan Arencibia, came forward to detail their sexual assault experiences at the airport.
CBP officer Degironimo spoke to NBC New York, and rejected the term “hazing” to describe the attacks.
“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 ended up mounting me and pretty much riding me like a horse. I’m grabbed by other officers against my will. I don’t know how much more criminal you can get.”
Smith said that Degironimo, Cifuentes, and Arencibia, together with three other officers, have engaged lawyers and are currently considering a lawsuit.
Degironimo said that the attackers called the conference table the “rape table.” Cifuentes described to NBC how one of her alleged attackers threatened her.
“He said, ‘You deserve to be put on the rape table.’ And that’s when he started chasing me. I was held down by another officer and one additional officer taped me with green customs tape to the chair.”
She said that she feared for her life on another occasion when an officer pulled a gun on her in her office.
Arencibia told NBC that he narrowly escaped being assaulted, but that his co-workers had been ready to attack him on the table. He said that during their ritualized assaults, they played the same song from the MTV show Jackass.
Speaking with NBC, Arencibia said the song is called the “Party Boy” song; it’s a song they played in the past and it’s now become their theme-song for this shocking ritual.
“They’re monsters in a sense. They know that we can’t do anything about this.”
According to Charlie Smith, these allegations are entirely consistent with the stories of over a dozen victims who say they’ve been assaulted on the job by a group of their colleagues. In fact, Smith says he’s heard stories of 17 alleged assaults. And Smith says the stories are always the same.
“Their M.O. 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 said that one man who was sexually assaulted many years ago was forced to seek professional counseling, because it “screwed up his head.” According to Smith, the man did everything he could to avoid working at the airport, even to the detriment of his own family, because “that’s where our overtime is at.”
“Just to stay away with these people.”
Women were not immune to these alleged assaults; however, Smith says the victims were predominantly men. He said that females who have been promoted to supervisor have been assaulted. One woman with whom he currently works claims she had her breast grabbed and her behind grabbed.
Smith has also heard many allegations of assault which have gone unpunished. He hoped the department would follow protocol when he heard that Degironimo had reported his attack to a supervisor, and assumed an investigation would be launched.
Having previously held a leadership role in the CBP union in Philadelphia, Smith says he is familiar with the discipline process and knows how these investigations go. Typically, this type of complaint would be handled internally using CBP supervisors from other areas, or delegated to an internal affairs task force.
“I didn’t see any of these things happening.”
What did happen, though, is that the “rape table” was removed from the scene of the crime.
“Their initial response was to remove the table from the office. They subsequently sent out emails saying ‘report misconduct.’ They held a couple meetings or musters in the beginning of our shift saying ‘there was an incident sexual in nature. It’s being handled,’ when in reality it was not being handled.”
— Jezebel (@Jezebel) May 12, 2017
Totally frustrated at the lack of action, Smith then reported the alleged assault to CBP’s Joint Intake Center, asking for anonymity.
“I know how these things are viewed in the law enforcement community, and it is quite negatively. They told me flat-out that they could do nothing to protect my anonymity and that everyone would know that I was the person that reported it. But there was no going back at that point.”
Deciding to carry on, he then reported the incident to Senators Johnson and McCaskill’s whistle-blower hotlines. At the moment, the incident is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General.
CBP confirmed that the Inspector General was investigating the allegations; however, no comment has been received from the Inspector General or the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) May 10, 2017
According to one victim, some agents could potentially refuse to speak to investigators due to fear of retaliation. Degironimo told NBC that people are too scared to go anywhere because the people involved are well connected. Charlie Smith confirmed that there is an air of camaraderie among management and alleged attackers. He also believes that investigators will have to examine years of allegations of abuse.
He added that the alleged offenders are all “senior officers” who have been on the team for a long time. In addition, the alleged offenders are considered to be “best friends” with the supervisors, and regularly go out drinking together.
— RT (@RT_com) May 11, 2017
Smith said that the earliest attack he knows of was approximately nine years ago.
“If this had happened to one officer and gone under the radar, how many other people did it happen to?”
[Featured Image by Valentin Agapov/Shutterstock]