Three Customs and Border Protection officers working at Newark Liberty International Airport were arrested on Wednesday over a disturbing ritual dubbed a “rape table.”
Tito Catota, 38, Parmenio I. Perez, 40, and Michael Papagni, 32 were charged with assaulting and intimidating two fellow officers during working hours, according to the statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
“The defendants, who were members of a unit responsible for identifying dangerous contraband and threats to national security, allegedly subjected their own colleagues to senseless physical abuse, all while on duty at Newark Liberty International Airport,” Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said. “This behavior would be abhorrent in any environment, especially one serving a critical law enforcement function. The hard working men and women who protect our borders deserve better.”
A complaint was first filed in May, at which point several officers came forward and recounted their abuse to NBC New York. They said that they had been sexually assaulted in a ritual that involved being duct-taped to a table other officers called the “rape table.” It’s been happening for years, the victims said.
Charlie Smith, who was identified by the Daily Beast as a CBP agent, corroborated the allegations in a May interview.
“Everybody has the same story,” he said. “Their MO 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.”
According to the New Jersey District Attorney’s office, “while two of the defendants held Victim Two down on top of the table, the other defendant got on top of Victim Two and moved his genitals up and down on Victim Two’s leg in simulation of a sex act.”
The defendants face a penalty of up to eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.