A former agent for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Phoenix on Tuesday for tampering with detainee records on July 25, 2005.
Joe Tony Villa, 38, of Mesa, will serve one year of probation and pay a $1,000 fine for trying to modify the agency’s database to show that he detained and deported a pregnant woman in April 2004, who in fact was released.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Villa resigned from his position at the Service Processing Center in Florence on Aug. 7 — a year after his alleged misconduct.
Villa then pleaded guilty in January to one count of unlawful access of a government computer.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Wyn Hornbuckle, said the charge is uncommon because the statute regulating the use of government databases is relatively new.
Hornbuckle added that prosecutors had no information implying that Villa benefited in any way from the transaction, financially or otherwise. Rather, Villa’s behavior appeared to be a demonstration of concern for her.
Prosecutors said they weren’t aware of any pre-existing relationship between Villa and the woman.
Villa attempted to modify the computer records after learning he would face a two-week suspension for the unauthorized release of the woman.
Prosecutors said they believed Villa changed the records so his behavior couldn’t be proven during the investigation into his conduct.
“We don’t tolerate misconduct,” Kice said on behalf of ICE. “If we become aware of any such activity, we’ll make sure appropriate action is taken,” she said. “In this case, we fully cooperated with the investigation.”
Neither Kice nor Hornbuckle was aware of any similar cases in Arizona in recent history.
Kice stressed that Villa’s actions are an anomaly. “The vast majority of ICE employees are law-abiding, committed individuals,” she said.