Ex-Homeland Security agent gets life in prison for sexual assaults, beatings, threats

A man in a mask, button-down shirt and tie walks while carrying a briefcase.
John Olivas, a former U.S. Homeland Security agent, exits the federal courthouse in Riverside in December 2021.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A former U.S. Homeland Security agent was sentenced Monday to life in prison for violating two women’s civil rights by trying to stop them from telling police he sexually assaulted them.

U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal rejected arguments by John Olivas, 48, that he deserved little more than a decade in prison and accepted prosecutors’ recommendation of life behind bars. Bernal said at the sentencing that he deplored Olivas’ “systematic torture of women,” prosecutors told The Times.

The judge presided over two trials that featured the women’s harrowing testimony about Olivas beating and sexually assaulting them in 2012 when he was a federal Homeland Security Investigations agent and they were, first one and then the other, his girlfriends.


The first trial ended in a hung jury. In the retrial, the jury found that Olivas raped one of the women twice and attempted to rape the other one once. He was convicted of three counts of deprivation of rights under color of law.

“Mr. Olivas recognizes that he must be punished and that he will serve significant time in prison,” his attorney Meghan Blanco told the judge in a memo. “But he does not deserve to die in prison.”

Olivas, who served 21 months in state prison after pleading guilty to related state charges, will appeal his federal conviction, she said.

Former U.S. Homeland Security agent John Olivas was charged with violating the civil rights of a girlfriend who says he sexually assaulted her.

Jan. 22, 2022

Prosecutors called Olivas a “predator who imposed nightmarish trauma on his romantic partners” and abused his power as a federal agent by telling them he could quash any local police investigation of his violent behavior.

“In that process, he was a terror,” assistant U.S. Attys. Eli Alcaraz and Frances Lewis wrote in a court filing. 

An ex-wife testified that in 2004 she, too, was raped by Olivas. He was not charged with assaulting her, and he denied the allegation.

In a letter to the judge, the ex-girlfriend whom Olivas attempted to rape said she was still terrified to leave home alone even a decade after the assault.


“I won’t go anywhere at night alone,” she wrote.

“The simple things like getting gas at night or going to the store when it’s dark are gone. I feel like I’m constantly looking over my shoulder.”