Three correction officers at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park have been arrested and hit with a laundry list of sexual abuse charges.
Lieutenant Carlos Richard Martinez, Lieutenant Eugenio Perez and Officer Armando Moronta, all of Brooklyn and all employees of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marilyn Go at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, on Thursday, May 25, after separate multi-count indictments were unsealed charging them variously with deprivation of civil rights under color of law, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, sexual abuse of a ward, attempted sexual abuse of a ward and abusive sexual contact.
The arrests came about as a result of an almost year-long investigation by the Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that included video surveillance, social media evidence, phone, documentary and medical records, as well as physical searches, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Both Martinez and Perez are being suspended without pay; Moronta had already been suspended without pay in another context.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Martinez allegedly “used physical force and fear to repeatedly rape a sentenced female prisoner” at the jail, committing the abuse “almost every weekend for a period of approximately two months, often multiple times per weekend.”
He reportedly ceased sexually abusing her for a period after becoming alarmed that an investigation had begun, before “raping her one last time shortly before her transfer to immigration custody,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges.
Perez, according to the indictment, “used his position as a lieutenant at the MDC to engage in sexual acts and contact with five different female inmates” who were “under [his] supervisory and disciplinary authority” between 2013 and 2016, engaging in “the use of physical force, intimidation and threats of retaliation” to impel their compliance.
Among other things, the indictment alleges that Perez “lured the victims into isolated situations by arranging for them to clean the lieutenants’ office area at night, and then requiring them to perform oral sex on him.”
Finally, Moronta, was charged with sexually abusing three different female inmates, “Including inserting his fingers into the vagina of a female inmate and causing inmates to perform oral sex on him while he was assigned to guard their unit.”
If convicted on all counts, Martinez and Perez face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; Moronta faces up to 60 years behind bars.
“By using their authority and power to prey upon and abuse female inmates in their care, these defendants violated their oaths of public service as well as numerous criminal laws,” stated Acting United States Attorney Bridget Rohde, who announced the arrests. “Our office is committed to eliminating sexual violence and abuse against inmates in all forms and ensuring that any correctional staff who engage in such conduct are punished.”
“These are deeply unsettling charges and I encourage a swift, thorough investigation and prosecution,” said Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, who represents the area. “I am also concerned that these events speak to broader management and oversight issues at MDC. In October, I wrote to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and to MDC voicing my concerns about conditions at this facility for female inmates. These latest allegations are alarming and my office will continue following up to ensure there is adequate oversight and appropriate reforms to ensure inmates rights are being fully respected.”
The investigation is continuing; anyone with information relating to prison corruption can share it by calling 800-869-4499 or going to oig.justice.gov/hotline/.