EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A federal grand jury this week returned a multi-count indictment against three men accused of sexually assaulting a Salvadoran migrant inside a South Texas detention facility.
The alleged assault occurred in the early hours of July 16 at the LaSalle County Regional Detention Center, a correctional and detention facility run by the county that holds federal detainees by contract, federal court records show.
The victim was being held at the center as a material witness in the federal prosecution of a migrant smuggling case; his attackers allegedly had previously warned him regarding “testifying against and providing information against any Mexican citizen in any alien smuggling case,” according to court records.
The “pod” or cell block where the alleged attack took place holds a mix of individuals being held as material witnesses in pending criminal cases as well as migrants detained for illegal re-entry into the United States.
The indictment and a preceding criminal complaint allege that detainees Heriberto Sifuentes Cobos, Arturo Puente Sifuentes and Kliffer Ojeda Colmenarez approached the victim’s bed and one of them began to assault him. The victim defended himself against the attacker but one of the other men came at him from behind, wrapped a towel around his neck and placed a knee on his back to cut off his air supply.
According to the court documents, the victim lost consciousness, and when he woke up, he reported serious bodily injuries resulting from the sexual assault to a correctional officer and was taken to Laredo Medical Center for treatment, court records show.
Sifuentes Cobos, Puente Sifuentes and Ojeda Colmenarez have been charged by the grand jury with six criminal counts including aggravated sexual abuse, assault resulting in serious bodily injury and assault with a dangerous weapon. The first count carries a maximum penalty of up to life in prison.
Border Report reached out to the LaSalle County (Texas) Sheriff’s Department for comment and is awaiting a response.
A Futuro Media news team’s investigation published last July by PBS turned up 308 sexual assault and sexual abuse complaints filed by migrants held at detention facilities nationwide between 2015 and 2021.