Florida ICE agent rapes detainee

On Nov. 16, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Wilfredo Vazquez was arrested by federal agents in Tampa, FL, and charged with three counts of knowingly causing a detainee under his supervision to engage in a sexual act. According to the accusation, Vazquez was driving a Jamaican woman, identified in an ICE press release only with the initials “M.C.,” from ICE’s Krome Service and Processing Center in Miami-Dade to the Broward Transition Center in Pompano Beach on the afternoon of Sept. 21 when he took a detour to his home in Tamarac and raped her there.

Vazquez had worked for ICE for less than a year. ICE issued a statement late on Nov. 16 saying that the agency fired Vazquez “shortly after the allegation was lodged against him.” Federal authorities are now 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 was also on rotation with an unidentified military reserve unit.

M.C., who had lived in the US for 12 years, was being transferred to Broward after being sentenced to time served in connection with a false claim to US citizenship. Immigration officials planned to place her in deportation proceedings.

In accusing Vazquez, M.C. said she did not outwardly resist the attack because she was afraid; she “emphasized that [he] was wearing his firearm at all times, and she did not know what he was capable of doing to her,” according to the complaint. M.C. was released from immigration detention on Nov. 1, said Cheryl Little, executive director of Miami-based Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, which is representing her. “I was scared for my life,” said M.C. in a telephone interview before being released. “He had a gun. He’s a big man, and I was in his custody.” Little said the former detainee cried with relief when told Friday night about the arrest.

In a statement given to her attorneys, M.C. said she was at Krome’s intake room when Vazquez noticed her among a crowd of male detainees. Vazquez told her: “I’ll rescue you, so you don’t have to wait for them to process all the men.” In his van, Vazquez removed M.C.’s handcuffs, told her, “You can sit in the front if you are going to be a good girl,” and helped her make phone calls to her daughter and a friend. After calling his wife to ensure she was not home, Vazquez took M.C. to his house and forced her to have sex with him before finally taking her to the Broward Transition Center.

At the Broward facility, another Jamaican female detainee asked M.C. why she was crying. M.C. told her what had happened, and the next day the other detainee reported the conversation to facility officials, who took M.C. to the Broward Sheriff’s Office and a treatment center.

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, Nieland’s affidavit said. Also, M.C. gave investigators accurate and detailed descriptions of the route they took and the interior and exterior of Vazquez’s home.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office first opened the investigation in late September after M.C. made her accusation against Vazquez. The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General got involved, and the US attorney’s office in Miami developed the case. (Miami Herald, Nov. 17; ICE news release, Nov. 19)

From Immigration News Briefs, Nov. 26

See our last post on the immigration crackdown