A US Customs and Border Protection officer was sentenced to 30 months for taking a $6,000 bribe at the US-Mexico border
- A border officer will spend 30 months in prison for smuggling a convicted felon into the US.
- Jose Fuentes pleaded guilty to taking $6,000 from Juan Carlos Gonzalez-Villa, who had been deported.
- The DOJ said Fuentes previously abused his power to smuggle undocumented immigrants over the border.
Jose Rosalio Fuentes, 58, plead guilty in February 2020 to accepting $6,000 bribe from Juan Carlos Gonzalez-Villa, a convicted and deported felon. At the time of the incident, Fuentes was a canine officer operating in Nogales, Arizona.
According to sentencing filings from the District of Arizona, an unidentified person first messaged Fuentes and inquired about what would happen if Gonzalez-Villa, who had several warrants out for his arrest, turned himself in at the border.
Prosecutors allege that Fuentes took this inquiry as an opportunity to enrich himself.
"I was going to tell you, if he wants to go to jail, he will be in jail for five years," Fuentes responded. "Or he can wait for when I'm there and then well . . . he passes, right."
The parties further developed the bribery and smuggling scheme over the course of several days. A later message indicated that Fuentes needed the bribe money to pay his utility bills.
"I would like to see if it could be six [thousand dollars]. . . at least to pay for this month's utilities because I'm also behind. Please if you could make it six, thanks. Bye."
On February 10, 2018, the scheme was a go. Once Fuentes took over the pedestrian inspection desk, Gonzalez-Villa and the unidentified person arrived at the port of entry and were waived to Fuentes' line. Once there, Fuentes pretended to swipe Gonzalez-Villa's identification card into the system and allowed him to pass through the border without trouble, according to surveillance footage presented by the prosecution.
Fuentes then messaged the unidentified person who was with Gonzalez-Villa after assisting them through security, stressing the importance of keeping the deal a secret.
"Juan Carlos [Gonzalez-Villa] cannot be saying anything please and thanks because this was a God send because I didn't have to pay the rent or the car, power, etc," Fuentes wrote.
Gonzalez-Villa sent the money to Fuentes but was arrested one week later on outstanding warrants, including a felony weapons charge.
According to the DOJ, this was not the first time Fuentes abused his power to allow undocumented immigrants into the country. Fuentes' sentencing records indicate that he was previously involved in a similar scheme to let in drug traffickers for a fee of $4,000 per person. One instance reportedly resulted in Fuentes being scared that he had inadvertently smuggled in "El Chapo," the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.
The prosecution further alleged that Fuentes had previously messaged with the unidentified person traveling with Gonzalez-Villa about using his CBP position to bring methamphetamines, heroin, and even bodies across the border.
Once arrested, Fuentes lied to the FBI and claimed that he never met Gonzalez-Villa and denied allowing undocumented immigrants over the border. He is alleged by prosecutors to have messaged the unidentified person with instructions to lie to officials about the purpose of the $6,000 bribe in order to coordinate their stories.
A former border patrol agent, Jenn Budd, told Business Insider in December corruption was part of the business.
"It still is very common for Border Patrol supervisors to smuggle drugs or people using their own official vehicles. There are agents that have cartel connections before even entering BP," Budd said.
In addition to 30 months in prison, Fuentes was fined $6,000 and will be in a supervised release program for a period of three years following his time served. According to a press release from the DOJ, he is also "prohibited from holding a position of trust with the United States in the future."
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