Women sue U.S. border agents for sex assault

Two women are suing a pair of female U.S. border agents as they were stopped on the Ambassador...

Two women are suing a pair of female U.S. border agents as they were stopped on the Ambassador Bridge on their way to Detroit. (JENNIFER O'BRIEN/ QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)

Sheena Goodyear, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:42 AM ET

Three Ontario women are suing U.S. border guards for alleging groping, fondling and mocking them during random strip searches.

Two lawsuits were filed Tuesday in Michigan, one on behalf of Leslie Ingratta from Windsor, and another on behalf of two women from Windsor and Milton who wish to remain anonymous.

Ingratta, who said she crosses the border to shop in Detroit all the time, alleges she was stopped at the Windsor Tunnel on Jan. 30, 2011, and asked a series of questions about where she was going and why.

According her statement of claim, she answered all the questions truthfully, but the officer told her: "You can't even look me in the eye when answering me, which proves you're lying."

Then two female guards took her into a cell, told her to face the wall and spread her arms and legs.

One of the women, according to the lawsuit, "put her hands underneath plaintiff's bra and began shaking and jiggling plaintiff's bare breasts," then "grabbed plaintiff's right buttock, roughly pulled it aside, and rubbed plaintiff's clitoris" and "pulled on plaintiff's tampon."

The other guard asked her if she was going to Detroit for a "booty call."

Left crying and shaking from the experience, Ingratta cancelled her shopping trip and returned home to Canada.

She is suing the two unnamed guards who strip-searched her for the cost of the lawsuit, including lawyer's fees, and whatever else the court deems appropriate.

Two other women are also suing a pair of female border agents, though likely not the same ones, as they were stopped on the Ambassador Bridge, not the tunnel.

The two friends were on their way to an Alicia Keys concert in Detroit on March 5, 2010, when they were pulled over, said their Michigan-based lawyer Thomas Wienner.

Wienner said the guards asked the women if they'd ever been strip-searched. When they said no, one of the border guards replied: "Well, you're about to be."

Saying the searches were "random" and "invasive," they allegedly led the first woman, who was eight months' pregnant at the time, to a holding cell, where they had her strip down to her leggings and tank top, face the wall and spread.

"When (the border guard) reached her groin area, she penetrated the woman's anus and vagina deeply enough that her leggings were pushed inside. She then reached under her bra and fondled her breasts for a lengthy period," Wienner said.

They did much the same to her friend, said Wienner, who called the whole thing "beyond standard practice and something that is outrageous and unacceptable."

"They do have to have a reason even for doing a security pat-down search," Wienner said. "There's certainly no reason at all for whatever happened to these women. It's not a search; it was being sexually molested."

In February 2011, Loretta Van Beek from Stratford, Ont., also sued two female U.S. border guards through Wienner's law firm. She alleges she was assaulted in March 2010 at the Windsor Tunnel. Wienner said it's possible it was the same two guards who searched Ingratta.

Statements of claim contain unproven allegations and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not yet filed a statement of defence.

In a statement, U.S. customs said they would co-operate with the investigation.

"CBP stresses honour and integrity in every aspect of its mission," the statement says. "We do not tolerate misconduct or abuse within our ranks and we fully co-operate with all investigations of alleged unlawful conduct, on- or off-duty, by any of our CBP employees and contractors."


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