Miami Florida Nov. 18 2007
An immigration agent driving a Jamaican woman from a Miami-Dade detention center to one in Broward took her to his home instead and raped her, according to federal criminal charges filed late Friday.
A criminal complaint filed in Miami federal court alleges that Wilfredo Vazquez, 35, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, sexually assaulted the 39-year-old Jamaican mother of two on the afternoon of Sept. 21 at his Tamarac home.
The woman said she was ”afraid” of Vazquez, according to the three-count criminal complaint. She “emphasized that Vazquez was wearing his firearm at all times, and she did not know what he was capable of doing to her.”
Federal authorities are poring over computer records and other documents that track Vazquez’s involvement in previous detainee transfers to see if other women were attacked but feared coming forward.
Vazquez, who worked for the agency for less than a year as an immigration enforcement agent, was picked up Friday evening in Tampa, where he had been on rotation with an unidentified military reserve unit. He is scheduled to make his first appearance in Tampa federal court on Monday.
Cheryl Little, executive director of Miami-based Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, which represents the victim, said the woman was released from immigration detention Nov. 1. The Miami Herald, as a policy, does not identify rape victims.
”I was scared for my life,” the woman said in a telephone interview before being released. “He had a gun. He’s a big man, and I was in his custody. I expected him to protect me, not to take advantage of me.”
Little said the woman cried with relief when told Friday night about the arrest.
”It was such an emotional moment when I told her,” Little said.
Vazquez denied several times to investigators that the incident happened or that he stopped other than to get gas, according to an affidavit by Homeland Security agent David Nieland.
But records from Florida’s Turnpike SunPass electronic toll system showed Vazquez’s official vehicle left the highway at a Commercial Boulevard ramp near his home, the affidavit said, and the woman described his home and neighborhood to investigators.
The sexual assault case is the first since 2000, when officials at the Krome detention center opened an investigation into sexual misconduct by guards and officers at the west Miami-Dade detention facility.
At least one officer and one contract employee were convicted. The scandal prompted immigration authorities to remove female detainees from Krome. Most women are now housed at the Broward Transitional Center at Pompano Beach, though some are first processed at Krome.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a statement late Friday saying Vazquez was fired “shortly after the allegation was lodged against him.”
”ICE takes employee misconduct very seriously,” the statement said. “As such, Wilfredo Vazquez was arrested [Friday] following a thorough criminal investigation by the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility, the [Department of Homeland Security] Office of Inspector General and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.”
The Broward Sheriff’s Office first opened the investigation in late September after the victim disclosed the episode to authorities. The U.S. attorney’s office in Miami then developed the case under prosecutor Daniel Rashbaum.
The Jamaican woman was being processed at Krome for transfer to Pompano Beach after being sentenced to time served in connection with a false claim to U.S. citizenship. Immigration officials planned to put her in deportation proceedings after having lived in in the United States for 12 years. She has a 20-year-old daughter and a young son.
She was at Krome’s intake room when Vazquez noticed her among a crowd of male detainees, according to a statement she gave to her attorneys.
In that statement, the woman said the officer told intake officials he would drive her to the Pompano Beach facility. Then he turned to the woman and said: “I’ll rescue you, so you don’t have to wait for them to process all the men.”
Before putting her in the back of a van, Vazquez took the handcuffs off the woman and allegedly said: “I don’t cuff females.”
A Broward Sheriff’s Office report said Vazquez later stopped the van, after asking the woman if she was hungry, and said: “You can sit in the front if you are going to be a good girl.”
Vazquez then asked the woman if she needed to make a phone call, handed her an earpiece and dialed calls to the woman’s daughter and a friend.
After she finished the calls, the officer asked her if she was wearing ”federal underwear” and to show it to him. ”I told him no,” according to the statement.
Later, the officer called his wife on his cellphone to check if she was at home. ”He told me that she was not,” the woman said in the statement.
Inside his home he asked her to “take off those federal clothes.”
‘I just stood there praying to myself, saying, `God, please don’t let this man hurt me.’ I was asking God to have mercy so this man wouldn’t kill me. . . . All I could think of was . . . if he was crazy enough to bring me to his house and rape me, then what would he be willing to do to cover it up?”
After about 15 minutes, the agent ordered her to get dressed and walk to the van.
She noticed a van parked across the street with lights on.
”I thought about running over there and screaming for help,” she stated. “But then I thought he might just shoot me in the back and say that I tried to escape from him.”
After arriving at the Broward facility, the woman was taken to her room. “I just laid on my bed in the fetal position crying.”
A short time later, another Jamaican female detainee asked why she was crying. The woman shared what happened. The next day, the other detainee reported the conversation to facility officials, who took the victim to the BSO and a treatment center.
The woman told The Miami Herald that she keeps replaying the episode in her mind and wondering whether she could have done something to prevent it.
‘I keep thinking, `What could I have done to stop him?’ ” she asked.
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