Customs Officers Charged With Assaulting Fellow Officers at Newark Airport

Elias Hubbard
September 14, 2017

- Three Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were arrested Wednesday morning and charged with assaulting two fellow officers at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Officers who say they were hazing victims claim the abuse happened for years. The allegations surfaced after an investigation by WNBC in NY. 38-year-old Tito Catota from Newark, 40-year-old Parmenio I. Perez from Paterson and 32-year-old Michael A. Papagni from West Orange have been arrested.

Of the two victims in the case, who have not been named, one claimed that Papagni referenced the rape table and told the victim he would one day force him onto it, while on another occasion one of the victims said he had been held down onto the rape table.

The third incident detailed in the court documents is listed on January 10: Papagni saw "Victim One" in the PERT office and told him he had to leave or find out "what this team was about".

A second victim claims he went to the PERT office in Terminal C to speak with CBP officers in November 2016 when one of them locked the door behind him. According to the criminal complaint, the assaults began in October 2016.

"The defendants, who were members of a unit responsible for identifying unsafe contraband and threats to national security, allegedly subjected their own colleagues to senseless physical abuse, all while on duty at Newark Liberty International Airport", said U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick in a statement posted to the Department of Justice's website on Wednesday. Moments later, the lights in the office were shut and Catota and Papagni grabbed the arms and legs of "Victim One". While he was held down, Perez allegedly got on top of the victim and grinded his body up and down against his genitals through the victim's clothing in a motion simulating a sex act.

The victim struggled to get free until the three defendants eventually released him, prosecutors say. "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", said Fitzpatrick.

Catota, Papagni, and Perez then allegedly grabbed the victim and threw him on his side on the office table. WNBC reported the PERT team was disbanded in May after its report and 11 officers were suspended pending the outcome of the federal investigation. A spokesperson for Customs and Border protection said the agency was taking action over the situation.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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