Tampa immigration officer on trial, accused of seeking sex from applicant

Published Sept. 29, 2015

TAMPA — Laura Maldonado had trouble. The Ecuadoran national led her 10-year-old son to a Tampa immigration office in 2006, trying to extend his U.S. residency. Her American husband of 15 months had died four years earlier, putting their legal statuses in limbo.

That's where she met Jeffrey Bohn, an immigration officer who federal authorities allege was soon visiting her for sex.

Bohn, 55, of Riverview, is on trial this week in U.S. District Court, accused of lying four times starting in 2010 about his relationship with Maldonado while applying to keep his national security clearance active.

He has been on leave from his job since November.

Maldonado, the government's first witness, testified for 2 1/2 hours in Spanish on Monday, her words translated for jurors. She described him showing up at her home the week they met.

"He told me he had seen me and he had fallen in love at first sight," she said. "He was in love with me and wanted to marry me. He started kissing me …"

Federal prosecutor Sara Sweeney told jurors that Bohn's office, part of U.S. Customs Citizenship and Immigration Services, strongly discourages close contact with foreign nationals because of the potential for bias in decisions.

Maldonado had entered the country illegally through Mexico about 16 years ago. Hillsborough marriage records show she married in April 2001. She testified that her husband, Antonio Maldonado, died in July 2002.

Her interview with Bohn was Sept. 11, 2006. She said she was nervous and he told her to calm down. He stamped her son's passport for another year, she said. He also learned she had crossed the border illegally and needed help with her own paperwork.

That afternoon, he called her cell phone. A meeting at a fast food restaurant one day was followed later by a visit to her home, she said. And then another visit.

"I never asked him to stop," she said, "because I was afraid that he would take reprisals and he had my paperwork. I was afraid for myself and my son."

Bohn's federal public defender, Dionja Dyer, said the woman had made up allegations while looking for a way to remain in the United States.

During cross examination, Dyer pointed out inconsistencies between Maldonado's answers on immigration papers and statements made later, raising questions about her truthfulness.

But the prosecutor told jurors they would hear about DNA evidence linking the two.

Before the jury was picked Monday morning, U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven asked attorneys to explain why the case had gone to trial.

Bohn briefly considered a plea agreement earlier this month, but changed his mind. Dyer said he didn't want a felony record.

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The jury, with two alternates, is comprised of nine women and five men. Because Bohn was married at the time of the alleged contact, prospective jurors were questioned Monday about their attitudes toward infidelity.

Several women who said their husbands had cheated on them were struck from the pool.

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report.