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Congress Puts Pressure on CBP Comm'r Amid Newark Airport Hazing Probe

"Once the lights go out, they grab you up like a gang, and they forcibly throw you on the table," one officer said

What to Know

  • Bombshell hazing allegations pit customs officers against each other at Newark Airport
  • One officer claims there was a notorious conference table known as "the rape table" in middle of the room where senior officers went wild
  • The feds confirm an ongoing investigation and say U.S. Customs and Border Protection is cooperating fully with the probe

An investigation in Washington into abuse allegations by four Customs and Border Protection officers is ramping up just as the CBP moves to confirm its new commissioner.

The CBP officers say they were physically threatened, and in some cases, sexually abused by fellow officers at Newark Airport. In that first bombshell report, the officers detailed extreme hazing they say occurred in a secure area of Terminal C as far back as 2011.

There was fast and furious reaction Wednesday to a bombshell I-Team report that federal investigators are probing allegations of extreme hazing of border officers at Newark Airport. Sarah Wallace reports.

Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, who President Trump recently nominated to be the agency’s permanent head, has been under pressure from members of Congress to provide answers about the alleged abuse.

A Senate hearing to confirm McAleenan was abruptly postponed Thursday, but the pressure from Congress for him to address the disturbing claims continues to pile up.

Both the Inspector General and the US Attorney’s office are actively investigating the abuse allegations.

The Department of Homeland Security is investigating allegations that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency officers at Newark Airport have been subjected to sexually abusive hazing by veteran officers, including the duct-taping of victims to a “rape table.” Sarah Wallace reports.

CBP officer Vito Degironimo claimed he was pinned down on a so-called "rape table" and sexually abused.

"I mean his genitals are on my chest, he’s humping me, dry humping me with clothes on," he said.

Another officer, who did not want to be identified by name, said there was no conference table when he was assigned to the office, but he said he was sexually abused and, once, thought he was going to die.

"For some reason, somebody put a bag over my head and he started choking me," the officer said. "It was a plastic bag. At this point he’s not just suffocating me, but he’s choking me at the same time, so I was struggling. I tried to get it off and he held it tighter."

He said he was finally able to free himself and confronted the officer. "I said, ‘Why did you hurt me, you were trying to kill me, you were choking me.’"

He added that other officers in the room were laughing and he wondered, "Why would they come to this? Why are they trying to kill me?"

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New Jersey attorney Patrick Metz, who is representing the officers as they seek to file a lawsuit over the alleged abuse, described the latest claim as sickening.

"Somebody put a bag over his head and choked him until he almost passed out. What other workplace does that go on in?" Metz said. "Everybody from the rank officers on up knew or apparently knew and just looked the other way."

After the report, House representatives from two different committees, including New Jersey’s Bonnie Watson-Coleman, sent letters to Acting CBP Commissioner McAleenan, asking him to respond to several questions. By the end of May, there was no response.

“It’s just the arrogance and the dismissiveness of this administration,” Watson-Coleman told the I-Team.

Now, Senators are taking action too-. In a recent letter the I-Team obtained, Claire McCaskill, a ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and a former sex crimes prosecutor in Missouri wrote: “I am concerned that senior leaders at CBP knowingly maintained an environment that allowed assault and harassment to take place despite complaints.”

Read McCaskill's full letter: 

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