Jovany Perez of Miami, Florida was arrested last week for allegedly taking a bribe from a woman he accused of using a fake marriage to become a permanent U.S. resident.
Perez, 34, is an officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). He is being charged with receiving a bribe while a public official. He was released on May 18 on a $200,000 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court on June 1. It is unclear if he has acquired the services of an attorney.
According to the criminal complaint, their encounter began during an interview on April 20. Perez reportedly told the woman that he knew her marriage was fake and got her to sign a confession. He gave her his contact information and told her he could help her deal with her case, but he couldn’t do it from his USCIS office.
The woman reportedly messaged him later that day, and the two met in a restaurant parking lot. While the woman was in Perez’s car, he allegedly touched her breasts, asked her if she was recording the conversation, and showed her his penis. Perez told her that he “was the ultimate decision maker in her case” and asked her to have sex with him in the car, the complaint said.
The woman declined his offer to have sex and later reported him to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General. DHS Investigators asked her to meet him again at the same location a few weeks later.
This time Perez allegedly offered to replace her signed confession with a new statement. He reminded her that she would have to hire an attorney to handle the case and suggested that she pay him the money she would have paid a legal counsel. She agreed to pay him $2,000.
The woman arranged another meeting with him on May 17—with federal agents recording audio and video—and came with the $2,000. Perez reportedly tore up her confession and helped her write a new one that said her marriage had started well, but she had been unfaithful to her husband and they separated because of her infidelity. He then counted and pocketed the money she gave him and instructed her to delete their correspondence. Investigators arrested him without incident at the end of their meeting.
A USCIS spokesperson told news sources that the agency is cooperating fully with investigators and that it takes misconduct allegations very seriously. When asked about the arrests of other agency workers who received bribes, the spokesperson said the following:
“The overwhelming majority of USCIS’ 19,000-person workforce conducts their professional duties with honesty and a strong commitment to public service. USCIS continually works to strengthen the security and integrity of the immigration system and to ensure that the very small number who have engaged in criminal wrongdoing are vigorously prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”