News and Press Releases

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violations for Sexual Assault of Three Women

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2012

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, and David P. D’Amato, Special Agent in Charge, Southeast Region, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), announced that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Paulo Morales, 47, pled guilty today to three civil rights offenses for sexually groping three women in his custody.

During the plea proceedings, Morales admitted that on various dates in January 2011, Morales, while working as an officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Miami International Airport, groped the breasts of three separate women in the custody of Customs and Border Protection without their consent.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “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. My office and the Department of Justice are fully committed to protecting the civil rights of our citizens from all types of abuses.”

“We will not tolerate law enforcement officers engaging in this behavior with institutionalized persons,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable individuals who abuse their position and authority in this manner.”

ICE-OPR Special Agent David P. D’Amato stated, “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. 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 October 26, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. in Ft. Lauderdale. The defendant faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of up to $300,000.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility, with the assistance of Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs. This case 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.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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