South Florida

Immigration officer accused of seeking sex, then bribe, from woman in Hialeah

This spring, a Miami-Dade woman asked a federal officer to allow her to become a lawful permanent resident, basing her petition on a “valid” marriage claim.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer sized up the situation, tried to have sex with the woman and eventually accepted a $2,000 bribe from her, authorities say.

The officer, Jovany Perez, was arrested Wednesday by federal agents on a charge of accepting an official bribe. The following day, Perez, 34, of Miami, was granted a $200,000 bond in federal court. His defense attorney, Jeffrey Weiner, declined to comment Friday.

Perez’s arraignment is scheduled for June 1.

On April 20, Perez confronted the woman about her valid marriage claim at the federal citizenship office in Hialeah and said it was a sham, according to a criminal complaint. He got her to sign a statement that “she had committed marriage fraud.” Perez told the woman that he could help her — but not in the office — and to contact him through Facebook.

Later that same day, Perez and the woman met in his car in the parking lot of a local restaurant. During the meeting, he fondled her breasts, asked her whether she was wearing a wire and exposed his penis to her, according to the complaint. Perez told her that he “was the ultimate decision maker in her case” and proposed having sex right there in the car.

The woman refused but agreed to meet the officer later — then contacted Department of Homeland Security investigators. At their direction, the woman went undercover and met with Perez, recording their encounters.

On May 9, they met at the same restaurant parking lot. Perez told her that he could remove her recent statement about the fake marriage in her file and replace it with another one that he would help her write, according to the complaint.

“Perez instructed [the woman] to write that her marriage had begun well, but that she had been unfaithful to her husband when he became possessive and jealous,” according to the complaint. “Perez instructed [her] to write that she and her husband separated because of her infidelity.”

In exchange for the official favor, Perez asked her how she would pay him, reminding her that she was going to hire an attorney. He suggested that she should use the money for a lawyer to pay him. And so they made a deal for her to pay Perez $2,000, according to the complaint.

On Wednesday, Perez accepted the sum in cash from the woman in the parking lot of a Target store in Hialeah. He counted the money before placing it in his pocket, the complaint said. Perez told the woman to delete all of their cell phone communications.

After the meeting, federal agents with Homeland Security arrested Perez.