Two more corruption arrests

A new year, and the corruption busts keep coming. Wednesday was a busy day when it came to arrest ing CBP officers. In Yuma, Arizona, a 41-year-old CBPO and his wife were arrested on bribery charges after allowing 600,000 fake ecstasy pills to be smuggled through his inspection lane during what turned out to be a sting operation.

Nearly 2,000 miles away, a Brownsville CBPO was busted for allowing unauthorized immigrants to be smuggled into the country, along with more than 30 pounds of cocaine to be smuggled into the country through his lane.

And earlier in the month, a former Border Patrol Agent stationed in Arizona, Jose Luis Sanchez, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for taking bribes to smuggled marijuana into the country (press release after the jump) while Salomon Ruiz, 34, and Leonel Morales, 30, cousins who were both Border Patrol agents, pleaded guilty in separate hearings to accepting bribes from drug smugglers to guide loads of cocaine into the country. They were arrested in December in Texas.

With the violence in Mexico, particularly in border cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, the pressure seems greater than ever to find a corruptible border agent. The Department of Homeland Security may have met its hiring goals with patrol agents, but have they met their goals with internal affairs agents is another question.

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More of the same

Border Patrol agents accused of aiding drug smugglers
By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN Associated Press
Dec. 5, 2008, 12:04AM

MCALLEN — Two South Texas Border Patrol agents appeared in federal court Thursday on charges alleging they helped drug traffickers move their product across the U.S.-Mexico border.

A grand jury in Houston returned sealed indictments Dec. 1 against Leonel Morales, 30, of the Border Patrol’s Laredo sector and Salomon Ruiz, 34, of the Rio Grande Valley sector.

Both men made their initial appearances in federal courthouses in McAllen and Laredo on Thursday after the FBI arrested them Wednesday. They will remain in custody until their respective detention hearings next week, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Ruiz, of McAllen, faces four counts, including taking about $14,000 in bribes to escort drugs between October 2006 and September 2008, conspiring to possess and distribute cocaine, possessing cocaine, and aiding the possession of the drug.

Each drug charge carries a sentence of 10 years to life.

It was not immediately known Thursday if Ruiz or Morales had retained lawyers. Border Patrol spokesman Lloyd Easterling said weeding out corrupt agents is something the agency takes seriously.

“We have several open investigations going on,” Easterling said.

The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs, and the Border Patrol participated in the investigations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Morales, of Zapata County, faces three counts, including taking about $9,000 in bribes to escort drugs between June and August of this year, conspiring to possess cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The FBI arrested Morales without incident late Wednesday.

“The recent arrest of Leonel Morales is a reminder of the sever consequences of succumbing to avarice and the promise of ill-gotten gains,” said Carlos X. Carrillo, the Laredo Sector’s chief patrol agent.

Inspector guilty plea

Published: December 2, 2008

A rookie customs inspector in California has pleaded guilty to letting smugglers drive hundreds of pounds of marijuana into the country for $200,000 worth of bribes. The inspector, Luis F. Alarid, 32, admitted in a plea agreement filed Nov. 25 to conspiring to smuggle more than 100 kilograms of marijuana into the country and bribery charges. He also agreed to forfeit $200,000, including $175,000 in cash.

Another corruption arrest

To clean up some old items from the draft file:

Not that it would surprise some people, but the corruption cases along the border keep piling up.

I was surprised a recent case out of Texas didn’t get more coverage, seeing that the Homeland Security Department’s press release mentioned that Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs helped investigate, not to mention that it was a DHS/Office of Inspector General (the overarching internal affairs unit for the department) press release.

Jorge A. Leija was arrested on drug charges right around Halloween. He was not charged with accepting bribes, but a DEA agent testified that he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. And he let in a lot of cocaine: more than 1,300 kilos, or about 3,000 lbs.

The story appeared in the Monday, November 10 edition of the NY Times.

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Extraditions at record pace

In Sunday’s Los Angeles Times Ken Ellingwood writes about the “record” number of extraditions of drug suspects and other wanted criminal suspects from Mexico to the US.

Ellingwood writes,

The government of President Felipe Calderon is extraditing drug suspects and other fugitives to the United States at a record pace, reflecting a quiet but seismic shift in Mexican policy that many analysts say could help dismantle trafficking gangs.

Calderon’s administration has handed over more than 150 criminal suspects since coming to power in December 2006.

The extradition rate is double what it was before Calderon took office. And it represents a radical policy change from a decade ago, when Mexico, sensitive about its sovereignty, rarely handed suspects over for prosecution in the United States.

I’d heard something similar about a month ago, and checked in with different sources. I was pointed to a web site for the US Embassy in Mexico City that details the breakdown of extraditions. As of August 2008, about 48 percent of the extraditions involve drugs, while 33 percent are for murder. Overall, more than half the extraditions are for offenses other than drug trafficking, including murder, sexual crimes against children, rape and kidnapping. Most of the fugitives returned are Mexican nationals.

These figures are up from 40 percent of extraditions involved drug trafficking while down from 37 percent involving murder from figures that appear to be about a year old.

See: http://mexico.usembassy.gov/eng/eataglance_law.html

The overall numbers are certainly up — Mexico extradited only four people in 1995, for instance, compared with 83 people last year and about 70 this year, as Ellingwood reports (the latest figures I have from August are at 57 for the calendar year). A telling number, however, is that 51 extradition cases remain before Mexican judges (at least two involve the Villarreal brothers, as mentioned previously here.)

What I don’t know is if the actual rate of extraditions has increased, as Ellingwood reports. Are the number of extradition requests increasing as well? Or are the requests static and the number of approved extraditions increasing?

Anyway, there has been a trend upward in extraditions going back to 2000. As this State Department press release points out, 2003 saw a record, too. The fact is, we’ve heard about new records before:

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Stats

These are courtesy of UCSIS and CBP

USCIS

Refugee and Asylum Statistics 2007

http://www.dhs.gov/ximgtn/statistics/publications/YrBk07RA.shtm

CIS stats page

http://www.dhs.gov/ximgtn/statistics/publications/index.shtm

CBP

Apprehensions 2007

http://www.dhs.gov/ximgtn/statistics/publications/YrBk07En.shtm

M3 Report 10/28/08

Organized crime infiltrating SIEDO (Mexico’s principal federal agency in the war against organized drug traffic)

Courtesy: National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers/ http:www.nafbpo.org

[Leading the Mexican news today was the public revelation of corruption in SIEDO, the principal federal agency in Mexico’s war against organized drug traffic.]

El Universal (Mexico City) 10/28/08
Narcotraffic has been embedded in the structure of Mexico’s principal anti-drug agency for 11 years, according to the US government.  Since 1997, one of principal officials in the anti-drug war, Miguel Colorado González, has been in the service of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel, according to a diplomatic note delivered by the US to Mexico.  The communication refers to the official, known as “El Viejito del Cielo” [the little old man from heaven], as using his position for aiding the illegal activities of the cartel by supplying information regarding police and military operations and the names of those involved, according to the official document.
Mexican Senator Ricardo Monreal considered that the Senate should demand an in-depth investigation regarding the infiltration of organized crime into SIEDO.  He said the situation had been reported several years ago and is only the “tip of the iceberg.”  He called for the Senate, as well as the Department of Justice, to conduct investigations.  ”It seems important to me, worth emphasizing, the acknowledgement of what everyone has known, but that the government has not admitted: the drug cartels have infiltrated police agencies even to the federal level,” he said.
The newspaper’s editorial also addressed the situation in much the same line, but added, “If we are to believe the versions that run far and wide along the border with the United States, the cartels have begun also to infiltrate some of the US organizations presumably charged with vigilance, like the Border Patrol or ICE.  Some of the arms used by the hired killers were stolen from US National Guard armories and most have been acquired more or less by legal means in the country to the north.”