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SAN DIEGO — A woman is charged with having sexual relations with a detainee at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in a complaint unsealed Aug. 10. The alleged relations occurred while she was a case manager with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman (OIDO), which provides oversight of immigration detention facilities. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) investigated this case.
Shantel Hernandez made her initial appearance in federal court Aug. 10.
“Hernandez’ main purpose as a DHS OIDO case manager was to promote safe and humane conditions within immigration detention,” said OPR Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Gilgallon. “However, she allegedly abandoned that oversight role, instead using her position to engage in prohibited sexual activity with an ICE detainee in one of our detention facilities. OPR is fully committed to enforcing ICE’s zero tolerance policy against sexual abuse in our detention facilities and aggressively pursuing those DHS employees who violate the law, no matter their role or title.”
OIDO is an independent office within the Department of Homeland Security. OIDO was established by Congress to assist individuals with complaints about the potential violation of immigration detention standards or other misconduct by Department of Homeland Security or contract personnel and provides oversight of immigration detention facilities. It is not part of ICE or U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
As part of her duties, Hernandez managed ICE detainee complaints in various detention facilities in the San Diego area.
According to the complaint, OPR agents received information that Hernandez had been spending an unusual amount of time with a detainee, identified in court documents by the initials I.K.N., at the Otay Mesa facility.
OPR agents obtained phone records from the Otay Mesa Detention Center and determined that I.K.N. and Hernandez engaged in a significant number of sexually explicit phone calls and electronic communications. These calls discussed an ongoing relationship and sex acts between Hernandez and I.K.N. For example, in one call, Hernandez told I.K.N. that she had a video of one of their sex acts. Agents executed a search warrant that yielded a copy of one such video.
“The alleged conduct cannot and will not be tolerated,” said acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Haden. “Those in a position of authority over immigration detainees must be held to the highest standard.”
Hernandez is scheduled to appear in court on August 15 at 10 a.m. for a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jill L. Burkhardt.
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