WASHINGTON – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer Paulo Morales, 47, of Miami, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Miami to three civil rights offenses for sexually groping three women in his custody, the Justice Department announced today.
During the plea proceedings, Morales admitted that on various dates in January 2011, while working as an officer with CBP at the Miami International Airport, he groped the breasts of three separate women without their consent and while they were in the custody of CBP.
“Officers who sexually assault individuals in their custody defy the public trust bestowed upon law enforcement officials, and their actions will not be tolerated,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute criminal civil rights violations committed by law enforcement officials.”
“This former Customs and Border Protection officer misused his office and his power to sexually assault three women in his custody at Miami International Airport, in violation of their civil rights,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo A. Ferrer. “My office and the Department of Justice are fully committed to protecting the civil rights of our citizens from all types of abuses.”
“Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Professional Responsibility is dedicated to aggressively investigating all allegations of criminal and serious misconduct involving employees within our area of responsibility,” said Southeast Region Special Agent in Charge David P. D’Amato of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Professional Responsibility (ICE-OPR). “ICE-OPR takes great pride in protecting the integrity of all ICE and CBP employees. A law enforcement badge is a privilege; we will not tolerate its misuse as a key to assert power or unlawful force over those in one’s custody.”
Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 26, 2012. Morales faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of up to $300,000.
This case is being investigated by ICE-OPR and CBP Internal Affairs, and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Henry Leventis of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney William White of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida.