Three customs officers have been charged with sexually abusing their fellow agents in sick, back-room hazing rituals at Newark Liberty International Airport that included the use of a so-called "rape table."
Parmenio I. Perez, 40, of Paterson; Tito Catota, 38, of Newark; and Michael A. Papagni, 32, of West Orange, have been charged with forcibly assaulting, impeding, intimidating, and interfering with the two victims engaged in their duties as customs officers. According to the criminal complaint, the assaults began in October 2016. Within the first two weeks that he worked there, Papagni allegedly told him that the office table was known as the "rape table" and threatened that he would get him on it.
The men were members of a unit responsible for identifying risky contraband and threats to national security that has an office on the second floor of Terminal C.
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". Papagni warned the victim he had five minutes to exit the office or learn "what this team is about".
"Moments later, an individual identified in the complaint as CBPO 2 shut off the lights in the PERT office".
In one instance, authorities allege Papagni, Catota, and others held one victim down on the table, while Perez grinded his genitals up and down the victim's body.
The victim unsuccessfully attempted to push Perez off his body, but was released when Perez eventually got off of the victim, the complaint said. A few minutes later, that victim saw an officer lock one of the doors to the office. "Victim Two started to walk towards the other door to the PERT office but it was closed".
Catota, Papagni, and Perez then grabbed the victim and threw him on his side on the PERT office table. The officers later released him after a struggle ensued with the victim. "This behavior would be abhorrent in any environment, especially one serving a critical law enforcement function", acting to U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick said.
If Papagni, Cotota, and Perez are found guilty, each of the two counts they face could cost them up to eight years in prison, and $250,000 in fines, officials said. "The hard working men and women who protect our borders deserve better", Fitzpatrick said. The three are scheduled to appear in Newark federal court Wednesday afternoon.