Monday, July 02, 2012

HSI Nogales Special Agent Sentenced to 30 Months in Federal Prison for Obstruction and Other Federal Violations

TUCSON—On June 29, 2012, Jovana Deas, 33, of Rio Rico, Arizona, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson to 30 months in federal prison. Deas, a former special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), pleaded guilty on February 1, 2012, to a 21-count superseding indictment. The superseding indictment charged her with 12 counts of fraud and related activity in connection with computers, five counts of false statements or entries, and one count each of theft of government records, obstruction, aiding and abetting theft of government records, and aiding and abetting obstruction.

“Jovana Deas committed an egregious breach of the deep trust placed in our ICE special agents by the American people she swore to protect and serve,” said Joe Jeronimo, of ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility. “While her actions are atypical of the dedication and integrity demonstrated by the vast majority of ICE employees, this sentence should nonetheless send a message about the serious consequences facing those who would exploit their positions and violate that special trust. The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility will continue to investigate those individuals aggressively and seek their prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. ”

Deas admitted to abusing her position as an HSI special agent to illegally obtain and disseminate government documents classified as Official Use Only. Some of the sensitive information Deas unlawfully accessed was later discovered on a laptop computer of her former brother-in-law by law enforcement in Brazil. Her former brother-in-law is associated with a drug trafficking organization in Mexico, which has ties to drug traffickers in Brazil. Deas further admitted that she illegally accessed, stole, and transferred sensitive U.S. government documents to unauthorized individuals and that she obstructed HSI investigations. Deas also admitted that she lied to a HSI special agent when asked why she was making computer inquiries about a specific person who was a target of another agent.

Deas became a U.S. government employee in June 2003 as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer assigned to the Nogales, Arizona port of entry. In 2008, she became an HSI special agent assigned to the HSI Nogales Office. She was taken into custody on Friday at the conclusion of a two-day sentencing hearing. Through the testimony of three government agents, the government provided details at the hearing about the harm Deas caused to her former agency.

The superseding indictment to which Deas pleaded guilty also charged her sister, Dana Maria Samaniego Montes, 40, of Agua Prieta, Mexico, with violations of federal law. Samaniego Montes is a fugitive believed to be residing in Mexico. She is a former Mexican law enforcement official with alleged ties to drug trafficking organizations.

The investigation of Deas was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and agents with ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) at the FBI’s Southern Arizona Corruption Task Force (SACTF). SACTF agents were assisted in this investigation by agents from ICE’s HSI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. State Department’s Consular Integrity Division and the Brazilian Federal Police. The prosecution of Deas is being handled by James T. Lacey, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Tucson.

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