TUCSON, Ariz. – A special agent assigned to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office in Nogales, Ariz., has pleaded guilty to all 21 counts of a federal indictment charging her with obstruction and other corruption violations.
Jovana Samaniego Deas, 33, of Rio Rico, Ariz., faces up to 49 years in prison after entering a guilty plea to seven felony and 14 misdemeanor charges in federal court Feb. 1. She was arrested by federal authorities in June.
At the hearing, Deas admitted that she illegally accessed, stole and transferred sensitive U.S. government documents to unauthorized individuals and obstructed HSI investigations. She admitted to abusing her position as a special agent to illegally obtain and disseminate government documents classified as "For Official Use Only." Some of the sensitive information Deas accessed was later discovered by Brazilian law enforcement on the laptop computer of her former brother-in-law, who has ties to drug trafficking organizations in Mexico and Brazil.
The indictment also charges her sister, Dana Maria Samaniego Montes, 40, of Agua Prieta, Mexico, with federal violations. 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.
Deas entered federal service in June 2003 as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer assigned to the Nogales port of entry. In 2008, she became an HSI special agent.
Deas is scheduled to be sentenced April 11 in U.S. District Court.
The federal corruption investigation was conducted by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and ICE Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) agents assigned to the FBI's Southern Arizona Corruption Task Force (SACTF). SACTF investigators were assisted by special agents from HSI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the State Department's Consular Integrity Division and the Brazilian Federal Police.