Canadian Woman, Loretta Van Beek, Strip-Searched at U.S. Border for Smuggling Raspberries

Loretta Van Beek

Loretta Van Beek, a resident of Stratford, Ontario, was traveling to her vacation home in Savannah, Georgia.  She claims two female Customs and Border Protection officers strip-searched and molested her after they found her in possession of a few undeclared raspberries.  She is now suing for $500,000.

Since Loretta Van Beek filed her lawsuit, other women have come forward describing similar experiences.  As many as eight lawsuits could end up being filed.

CBC:  3 Canadians accuse U.S. border guards of ‘molestation’

In February 2011, Loretta Van Beek of Stratford filed a $500,000 lawsuit against two female border guards in Detroit. She was travelling to Savannah, Ga., where she owns a small vacation home, when she was pulled over by customs agents at the Ambassador Bridge.

Van Beek, 46, told CBC News she was sent to secondary inspection when customs officers discovered a few raspberries she had forgotten to declare.

She was questioned for more than an hour, then she was marched into a holding cell by two female agents. She was ordered to remove her shirt and stand spread-eagled against the wall.

“She was squeezing my nipples, etc., for a very long time, unnecessary attention,” Van Beek told CBC News in February last year. “It was sexual — using her fingertips, not back of hand like you would expect.”

Van Beek also claims the guard shoved her hand inside her genital area.

“It was deviant behaviour by the officer, no other explanation,” Van Beek said.

Stratford Beacon Herald:  More women file complaints

Since Loretta Van Beek came forward and filed a lawsuit against two American border guards after she was allegedly groped, more women have come forward with complaints.

There could be as many as eight women filing lawsuits against female border guards for allegedly groping and mocking them during random strip searches. Van Beek, a Stratford resident, is pleased more women have come forward and added it’s “a huge part of what she wanted to achieve” when she filed her lawsuit.

The guards have not been named in the newest cases but they have now been named in Van Beek’s case — Crystal Robinson and Toni Seenstra.

If those are the same guards the other women have filed lawsuits against, Van Beek could testify at the trials of the other women and vice versa.

Leslie Ingratta of Windsor and two friends, one from Windsor and the other from Milton who wish to remain anonymous, have filed suit in recent weeks. It remains to be seen how many other lawsuits will be filed.

Ingratta alleges she was stopped at the Windsor tunnel Jan. 30, 2011, and asked a series of questions. Her claim says she was taken to a cell, told to face the wall and spread her arms and legs. One of the guards allegedly put her hands underneath her bra and groped her breasts and also touched her buttock and genital area.

The unnamed friends travelling across the border at the Ambassador Bridge to an Alicia Keys concert March 5, 2010, just days after Van Beek, allege similar treatment. One of the women was eight months pregnant at the time. She was told to strip down to her tank top and leggings, face the wall and spread, the claim said.

“When (the border guard) reached her groin area, she penetrated the woman’s anus and vagina deeply enough that her leggings were pushed inside. She then reached under her bra and fondled her breasts for a lengthy period,” Wienner told QMI.

They did much the same to her friend, he said.

Media Coverage:

Legal Complaint:

Loretta Van Beek Lawsuit (PDF)

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