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July 2, 2012Tucson, AZUnited StatesProfessional Responsibility

Former HSI special agent sentenced to 2.5 years on corruption charges

TUCSON, Ariz. – A former special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was sentenced Friday to 30 months in federal prison following a multi-agency investigation that revealed she illegally accessed, stole and transferred sensitive U.S. government documents to unauthorized individuals and obstructed HSI investigations.

Jovana Samaniego Deas, 33, of Rio Rico, received the sentence from U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson following a two-day hearing that included testimony from three special agents detailing the harm Deas caused the agency. Deas pleaded guilty in federal court in February to 21 counts of obstruction and other corruption violations.

"Jovana Deas committed an egregious breach of the deep trust placed in our HSI special agents by the American people she swore to protect and serve," said Joe Jeronimo, special agent in charge of ICE's Western Region Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). "While her actions are atypical of the dedication and integrity demonstrated by the vast majority of ICE employees, this sentence should nonetheless send a message about the serious consequences facing those who would exploit their positions and violate that special trust. The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility will continue to investigate those individuals aggressively and seek their prosecution to the fullest extent of the law."

In her plea hearing, Deas 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 to which Deas pleaded guilty also charges her sister, Dana Maria Samaniego Montes, 40, of Agua Prieta, Mexico, with federal violations. Samaniego 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 and was assigned to HSI's office in Nogales. She was arrested by federal authorities in June 2011.

The federal corruption investigation was conducted by FBI and ICE OPR officers assigned to the FBI's Southern Arizona Corruption Task Force. The investigators were assisted by officers from HSI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the State Department's Consular Integrity Division and the Brazilian Federal Police. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Lacey of the U.S. Attorney's Office-District of Arizona.

Updated: 09/23/2014