Sickening airport horror: 'They called it the rape table'
IN a secure room inside Terminal C at Newark Airport, unimaginable horrors are taking place, according to bombshell allegations from within the US Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBA).
A group of whistleblowers has gone public with claims that CBP recruits are being subjected to sexually abusive hazing rituals.
Central to the allegations is a conference table, a sick prop dubbed the "rape table", on which victims have reportedly been duct taped and sexually assaulted by veteran officers with the lights off.
Three current CBP officers, Vito Degironimo, Diana Cifuentes and Dan Arencibia, shared details of their own horrific experiences on national television yesterday at great personal risk.
"I'm afraid for my life, my safety," Ms Cifuentes told NBC New York in an exclusive interview.
"This is terrorising. How is it that officers believe they're free to do whatever they want to do?"
The revelations by the trio, who are all members of the agency's Passenger Enforcement Roving Team, have sparked an internal investigation to be overseen by the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General.
"Hazing wouldn't do this justice. This is complete assault. They take you in a room and your fellow officers are all watching as officers grab you," Mr Degironimo said.
"They call this table itself the 'rape table'."
The ritual involved genital grabbing and grinding while the victims remained fully clothed but had the potential to get completely out of control, he said.
"Once the lights go out, they grab you up like a gang, and they forcibly throw you on the table and one officer ended up mounting me and pretty much riding me like a horse," Mr Degironimo said of his experience, which he classified as a sexual attack.
"I'm grabbed by other officers against my will. I don't know how much more criminal you can get."
Fellow officer Dan Arencibia said the perpetrators liked to play a particular song from the MTV series Jackass on loop for the duration of the hazing sessions.
"It's called the 'Party Boy song'," he told the station.
"It's something they played in the past and it becomes their theme for the event. They're monsters in a sense. They know that we can't do anything about this."
Ms Cifuentes told NBC 4 New York she escaped the "rape table" only to suffer other terrors from her fellow armed officers.
"There was a back and forth between another officer and myself," she said.
"He said, 'You deserve to be put on the rape table.' And that's when he started chasing me. … [Eventually] I was held down by another officer and one additional officer taped me with green customs tape to the chair."
Ms Cifuentes said on another occasion, a colleague pulled a gun on her at the office.
"I was very afraid for my life," she said. "I took a deep breath and kept on typing like nothing was happening. I know that if I reacted either he was going to pull the trigger or I was going to draw the weapon myself and shoot him."
All three officers said they were originally too intimidated to make official complaints.
"People are too scared to go anywhere because these guys are well connected," Mr Degironimo said. "Our immediate supervisors are best friends with these officers. The repercussions were that they removed the [rape] table. There was no punishment for the officers involved."
After months of abuse, Mr Degironimo ended up lodging an internal complaint. Eventually, all three officers got together and launched a joint lawsuit. Then they went public.
The trio's lawyer, Patrick Metz, said it was a miracle nobody had died during the rituals.
"This was armed hazing. It's an accident waiting to happen," he said.
"These are armed federal officers assaulting other armed federal officers. It's gang assault."
The CBP today released a statement denouncing all forms of workplace abuse and confirming that an internal probe was under way.
"We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we co-operate fully with all criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, whether it occurs on or off duty," the statement said.