South Florida

Aide to HSI investigators gets three years’ probation for lying about leak to target

Former Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Ivette Dominguez
Former Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Ivette Dominguez Handout

A single mother of two children, Ivette Dominguez had been working for 10 years as an assistant to Homeland Security investigators, most recently on undercover criminal cases.

But then Dominguez did something stupid that would end her career and risk sending her to prison, authorities say.

She tipped off a target of the agency’s steroids-distribution probe at the Homestead Air Reserve Base. She didn’t even know the person very well and didn’t make any money off leaking the sensitive information.

When confronted by Homeland Security Investigations agents, Dominguez lied at first about warning the target, a woman who ran a food concession at the air base, before eventually coming clean, according to authorities.

“I just want to apologize to the court for what I did,” Dominguez told a federal judge Friday before her sentencing.

Dominguez, 34, avoided prison time for her felony when U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom gave her three years’ probation and 300 hours of community service for making a false statement to federal authorities. She was facing up to five years in prison for lying to her HSI colleagues after pleading guilty in August. The outcome was unusual because normally federal agents who commit this type of crime get some prison time.

Bloom, however, refused to go along with the joint recommendation of federal prosecutor Edward Stamm and defense attorney Marc Seitles to give Dominguez two years’ probation. Bloom highlighted the fact that Dominguez not only tipped off the target, but told the person not to cooperate with Homeland Security Investigations agents and then lied herself when confronted about the misconduct.

“It’s sad and egregious given the position you had at that time,” Bloom told Dominguez, calling her behavior “outrageous.”

The judge made her decision after the defense attorney and prosecutor synchronized their recommendation for two years’ probation.

“She’s accepted what she’s done,” Seitles told the judge. “It is a tragic day for her and her family.”

Stamm called her wrongdoing an “isolated incident,” a “mistake” and “poor judgment” at various times during the sentencing hearing.

“She acted on impulse in providing a warning to this person,” Stamm told the judge. “And then she got herself in a little deeper” by lying about it.

As an investigative assistant, Dominguez conducted database and criminal history checks for an HSI group probing drug trafficking and immigration crimes.

In her case, Dominguez initially alerted the target about the steroids-distribution probe at the Air Force reserve base in South Miami-Dade in December 2017, according to a factual statement filed with her plea agreement. She warned the target not to sell illegal steroid drugs to a person cooperating with HSI investigators who would approach her.

Six months later, Dominguez contacted the target before she was going to be interviewed by HSI agents to let her know that their investigation was “weak” and that she had no obligation to cooperate with them, the statement says.

Then in March of this year, Dominguez exchanged a series of text messages with someone she believed to be a friend of the target. The investigative assistant did not know that she was corresponding with an undercover agent.

The agent told her that the target was going to be interviewed by HSI investigators. In response, Dominguez asked the agent to tell the target to lie to the investigators about ever receiving a warning from her about the steroids probe.

According to the factual statement, Dominguez was confronted by HIS agents on April 26. They told her that they received allegations that she had alerted the target of the steroids investigation.

During questioning, Dominguez initially denied any wrongdoing.

But after she was confronted about the text messages she exchanged with the undercover agent, Dominguez admitted alerting the target about the probe and providing her with information. She also admitted warning the target not to sell steroids to a person who would approach her. Finally, Dominguez said she asked the target to lie to HSI to protect her.

The case against Dominguez was led by agents with Homeland Security Investigations and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Professional Responsibility.

Jay Weaver writes about bad guys who specialize in con jobs, rip-offs and squirreling away millions. Since joining the Miami Herald in 1999, he’s covered the federal courts nonstop, from Elian’s custody battle to A-Rod’s steroid abuse. He was on the Herald team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news in 2001. He and three Herald colleagues were Pulitzer Prize finalists for explanatory reporting in 2019 for a series on gold smuggled from South America to Miami.