Three correctional officers working in Brooklyn’s federal jail, two of them lieutenants, were charged with sexually abusing multiple female inmates in their custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in separate indictments unsealed Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn.
In court filings that painted a picture of an out-of-control facility, the three guards were accused in separate cases of abusing nine women, including the forcible rape of one woman by an officer identified as Lt. Carlos Martinez, who prosecutors said trained other officers about responsibilities under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).
Martinez, who had sex with the female prisoner about 10 times, allegedly posted a picture on Facebook of himself posing with two other men believed to be jail staffers with the caption, “It’s only PREA when you don’t like it.”
Martinez, 47, Lt. Eugenio Perez, 46, and officer Armando Moronta, 39, all of Brooklyn, all pleaded not guilty and were held after brief court hearings late on Thursday. Although Perez hopes to present a bail package on Friday, the government filed memos asking for all three to be denied bail.
The memos laid out graphic descriptions of how all three men used their power — and in some cases physical force — to coerce either oral sex, intercourse and other sexual acts, and threatened the women if they didn’t keep quiet.
In several cases, the government said, the guards would order women to perform cleaning duties in office areas, and then use the opportunity to force sexual encounters. In one case, Moronta alternated having sex with one female inmate while another served as “lookout” before having them change places.
The inmate Martinez, an ex-Marine, had repeated sex with was described by the government as a “petite” woman who spoke little English. After he “overpowered” her on a desk without a condom the first time, he allegedly told her not to worry about getting pregnant because he had a vasectomy.
Acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde’s office said all three had been suspended without pay. “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,” Rohde said in a statement.
The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the charges against the three guards. “We are aware of the allegations and are taking appropriate steps concerning the employment status of the employees,” said a spokesman.
Moronta is charged with four counts of sexual abuse of a ward involving three different victims, and faces up to 15 years in prison on each count. Earlier this year, the government said, he was charged with being part of a plot to smuggle contraband including the drug K2 into the jail.
Martinez, who last year pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for punching a woman in the face in a road rage incident on the FDR Drive, faces up to life in prison on 20 counts of sexual abuse and civil rights violations. Perez also faces up to life on 16 sexual abuse and civil rights counts.
Treatment of inmates at the Brooklyn jail, which is generally used to detain defendants who can’t make bail, has been the subject of previous cases — including a still pending suit alleging widespread abuse of immigration detainees rounded up after Sept. 11.
One guard there, Nancy Gonzalez, was convicted of having sex in 2012 with Ronell Wilson, a convicted cop killer who was facing the death penalty. And last year, a magistrate in Brooklyn refused to send female to the jail because of poor conditions in the women’s wing.