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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Federal Contractor Arrested For Violating Civil Rights Of A Visitor At The Social Security Administration

Social Security Administration Security Guard Alleged to Have Assaulted a Member of the Public and Made False Statements as Part of a Cover-Up

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Anthony Levey, Region 2 Director of the Federal Protective Service (“FPS”), announced today the unsealing of criminal charges against EDWIN CABAN, a Protective Security Officer, in the assault of a member of the public at a branch of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). CABAN was charged with violating the civil rights of the victim by pushing the victim over a desk and then repeatedly punching the victim in the ribs without physical provocation. CABAN also is charged with filing a false report and making false statements to FPS agents to cover up the incident. CABAN was arrested this morning and is expected to be presented in federal court later today.

 

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “The Federal Protective Service’s mission is to protect federal facilities, including employees and visitors. But in this case, we’ve alleged, an innocent visitor needed protection from a violent and unprovoked attack by Protective Security Officer Edwin Caban, which fractured the visitor’s ribs. Officer Caban then allegedly lied about the incident, falsely claiming the victim was disruptive and required removal from the building.”

 

FPS Region 2 Director Anthony Levey said: “The Federal Protective Service relies heavily on security guard contract vendors and the security guards they employ to assist in our mission of securing federal facilities throughout the nation. We recognize the importance of citizens being able to conduct business with their government safely and free from mistreatment, and will not tolerate conduct that infringes on this ability. We are taking these allegations of misconduct seriously. As soon as FPS learned of the allegations, we immediately took steps to remove this PSO from his position at the SSA building, and FPS agents were assigned to investigate further. FPS agents conducted interviews, collected evidence, and as a result, a complaint was filed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. SDNY issued an arrest warrant which was promptly executed, safely and professionally, by FPS law enforcement members. We would like to thank our colleagues in the United States Attorney’s Office for their guidance, assistance, and support throughout the course of this investigation.”

 

According to the allegations in the Complaint[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

 

The SSA has multiple branch offices located throughout New York City, where claimants may request SSA services and make inquiries regarding social security benefits and Social Security cards. One branch office is located at 123 William Street (the “123 William Office”), in Manhattan. The 123 William Office is staffed by two Protective Security Officers, who are employees of a contractor for the Federal Protective Service of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The 123 William Office has several surveillance cameras, which captured the assault.

 

The Assault and Cover-Up
 

At approximately 12:37 p.m. on June 22, 2016, the victim (“Victim-1”) entered the 123 William Office, wheeling an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair into the reception area. CABAN attempted to move the wheelchair, which Victim-1 asked him not to do. After CABAN stepped away, Victim-1 withdrew a cellphone from his pocket. CABAN then walked back to Victim-1 and repeatedly accused him of taking a picture with his cellphone, which Victim-1 denied.

 

As recorded by security camera footage obtained from the SSA, CABAN at this point reached out toward Victim-1, and Victim-1 put both of his hands up in the air, with his palms facing CABAN. CABAN then took hold of Victim-1’s waist with both hands, pivoted, turned Victim-1 around, and then pushed Victim-1 backward toward the elevator bank. CABAN continued to push Victim-1 backward, toward a desk adjacent to the opening to the elevator bank, until Victim-1 fell backward over the desk. CABAN then took hold of Victim-1’s arms, and, as Victim-1 struggled to shake free of CABAN’s hold, CABAN took Victim-1 into the elevator bank.

 

After a brief struggle in the elevator bank, CABAN pushed Victim-1 up against a wall. Placing his left hand at the base of Victim-1’s throat, CABAN pinned Victim-1 against the wall. As Victim-1 stood there, not moving, with his hands up in the air in a gesture of surrender, CABAN punched Victim-1 four times in the chest and ribs. Victim-1 collapsed forward, and CABAN continued to hold on to Victim-1 as Victim-1 remained bent forward, clutching his abdomen.

 

At this point, CABAN’s partner, another Protective Security Officer (“PSO-1”), arrived in the elevator bank from a back area of the office and approached CABAN and Victim-1. CABAN let go of Victim-1, who remained against the wall, not moving. As PSO-1 stood a few feet away, CABAN punched Victim-1 again in the chest. After several minutes passed, CABAN and PSO-1 escorted Victim-1 out of the elevator bank and back into the main floor area, back toward where the man in the wheelchair was waiting.

 

As a result of the attack, Victim-1 suffered bodily injuries, including fractured ribs, bruising, and physical pain.

 

Shortly after the assault, Victim-1 called 911 and two New York City Police Department officers responded. One of these officers (“Officer-1”) entered the 123 William Office and spoke with CABAN about Victim-1’s allegations. CABAN stated to Officer-1 that he put his hands on Victim-1 to remove him from the office, at which point Victim-1 “flopped” onto the desk, knocking things over. CABAN denied touching Victim-1 after that point and denied entering the elevator bank during the incident.

 

That same afternoon, CABAN placed a telephone call to an FPS reporting center, in which CABAN made an oral report about the incident. CABAN stated that there was “a disruptive client in here that needed to be escorted out;” he did not disclose that he struck Victim-1.

 

After the incident, CABAN and PSO-1 discussed the event. PSO-1 wrote and submitted a Security Incident Report. CABAN asked PSO-1 to show him the report, which PSO-1 did. In that report, the only reference to use of force is PSO-1’s note that CABAN was “attempting to detain [Victim-1]” when PSO-1 arrived in the elevator bank. PSO-1 did not state in that report that CABAN struck Victim-1.

 

CABAN also wrote and submitted a Security Incident Report. In that report, CABAN stated that, as he “attempted to guide [Victim-1] out” of the office, Victim-1 “yelled and jumped onto the security desk flairing [sic] arms and legs knocking equipment around.” CABAN then stated that he placed Victim-1 in an “arm bar” and “took him by the elevator banks,” that Victim-1 “tried to break [his] hold” at which point CABAN “grabbed him under his chin” and “mainta[ined] a hold of his arm.” CABAN stated that PSO-1 then arrived. CABAN reported no other use of force against Victim-1. In particular, nowhere in the report did CABAN state that he struck Victim-1.

 

CABAN was interviewed twice by FPS agents. During the course of the first interview, CABAN hand-wrote and signed an affidavit. In those interviews and in that affidavit, CABAN denied that he spoke with PSO-1 about the incident after it occurred and denied seeing PSO-1’s report, though he did both. CABAN also falsely stated that Victim-1 threw himself over the desk, when in fact CABAN pushed Victim-1 over the desk, and that Victim-1 was resisting detention when CABAN struck him, when in fact Victim-1 was not resisting at that time.

 

* * *

 

CABAN, 55, of Astoria, New York, is charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of filing false forms and making false statements, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

 

Mr. Kim praised the investigative work of the FPS.

 

The case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption and Civil Rights Units. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Moe and Jacob Lillywhite are in charge of the prosecution.

 

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth below constitute only allegations and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 
17-115
Updated April 26, 2017