3 customs officers arrested in "rape table" case at Newark Airport

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Thursday, September 14, 2017
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NJ Burkett reports on an alleged case of extreme hazing involving Customs agents

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Three Customs and Border Protection officers have been arrested, accused of threatening fellow officers with a "rape table" and subjecting them to what can only be described as bizarre acts of sexual hazing at Newark Liberty International Airport.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Tito Catota, 38, of Newark, New Jersey, Parmenio I. Perez, 40, of Paterson, New Jersey, and Michael A. Papagni, 32, of West Orange, New Jersey, allegedly subjected their own colleagues to "senseless physical abuse, all while on duty."

They are charged with forcibly assaulting, impeding, intimidating, and interfering with the two fellow workers.

Prosecutors say the incidents took place in the second floor customs office in terminal C, where two large tables were pushed together in the middle of the room for team meetings.

According to the criminal complaint, the assaults began in October 2016. Papagni allegedly threatened one victim, informing him that the tables in the middle of the office were known as the "rape table" and one day he would "get (victim one) on it."

On another occasion, Papagni allegedly warned victim one, who went to retrieve a custody receipt related to a drug seizure, to get out of the office or he would teach victim one "what this team was about."

At some point during that encounter, the complaint alleges, Papagni and two other officers threw victim one on a table, carrying out a physical assault.

Victim two also alleges that Papagni, Perez and Catota carried out a similar assault in November 2016.

No clothing was removed, but court records said the victims were subjected to "grinding" and other such simulated sex acts.

"This behavior would be abhorrent in any environment, especially one serving a critical law enforcement function," acting to U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick said.

The three defendants were members of a unit responsible for identifying dangerous contraband and threats to national security.

They were arraigned on Wednesday afternoon and bail was set at $100,000 for each of them.