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Border Patrol’s second most senior official retires after being accused of pressuring female employees for sex

Joel Martinez became the acting deputy chief of US Customs and Border Protection in January

Dan Gooding
Wednesday 21 February 2024 21:17 GMT
US border guards rescue undocumented migrants from flood then arrest them

A top-ranking official with the United States Customs and Border Protection has opted to retire, following a suspension due to accusations of sexual misconduct.

According to NBC News, Joel Martinez is accused of trying to pressure multiple female colleagues into having sex with him while he was working in the Laredo sector on the US-Mexico border in Texas.

Sources told the outlet that “multiple” co-workers accused Mr Martinez of inappropriate behaviour, which included threats.

The CBP official was promoted to be the acting deputy chief of the agency in January this year, but he was then suspended last week. At the time, it was not clear why he had been pulled from duty and he has since retired from the agency.

A US Customs and Border Protection patch is seen on the arm of an agent in the Jacumba mountains on October 6, 2022 in Imperial County, California (AFP via Getty Images)

A press release from June 2023 said Mr Martinez had worked for CBP for over 30 years when he took over as Chief of the Laredo Sector that month.

In January 2023, another senior official - Tony Barker - resigned following an internal investigation into his interactions with female colleagues on government equipment. It was reported some of those communications were of a sexual nature.

The CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility would typically investigate any potential wrongdoing by employees, but as Mr Martinez has opted to leave the agency, he would not be subjected to any professional repercussions from an investigation.

If the OPR made a referral to the Department of Justice, then any accusations might be made public.

CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Independent on Wednesday, but in a statement released to NBC News a spokesperson said that the agency does “not tolerate misconduct within our ranks”.

The agency falls under the US Department of Homeland Security, employing more than 60,000 people tasked with securing the country’s borders.

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