Department of Justice SealDepartment of Justice
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Former Customs and Border Protection Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Charges

WASHINGTON – Santiago Perez, a former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Houston to violating the civil rights of a Guatemalan national and a Mexican national, who had crossed the border into the United States.

In pleading guilty, Perez admitted that in December 2006 near Falcon Heights, Texas, he struck an individual from Guatemala in the head with his service pistol after the individual had attempted to flee. The blow produced a significant gash on the victim’s head.

Perez also admitted that, in a separate incident in September 2007 near Premont, Texas, he threatened to kill an individual from Mexico whom he believed was an alien smuggler. Perez drove the individual to a secluded location, removed him from the patrol car, forced him to kneel and then began interrogating him. Perez placed his service pistol against the individual’s head and threatened to kill him if he failed to disclose the location of other aliens. On each count, Perez faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Perez is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 4, 2008 at 1:00 PM.

The case was investigated by Senior Special Agent Michael Gonzalez of the Office of Professional Responsibility of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruben R. Perez and Trial Attorney Michael J. Frank of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting this case.

The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as the laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. The Division has compiled a significant record on criminal civil rights law enforcement prosecutions. In fiscal year 2007, the Criminal Section convicted the highest number of defendants in its history, surpassing the record previously set in fiscal year 2006. During the last seven years, the Criminal Section obtained convictions of 53 percent more defendants (391 v. 256) in law enforcement prosecutions than it did during the previous seven years.