Mexican Smugglers Exploit the Corrupt Reputation of U.S. Border Officers

Michael Angelo Atondo's U.S. Border Patrol truck is backed up to the Arizona-Mexico border near an opening in the fence. The three men with him stand on the south side of the border next to a pair of Jeep Cherokees also parked close to the gap.

The rear door of Atondo's truck is wide open, but he's not loading illegal immigrants into the vehicle's cage.

It's Monday, April 4, and the men are about 40 miles east of San Luis, beyond an area known as Camino del Diablo — the Devil's Road. Their intentions on this early morning are as treacherous as the old trail weaving through the Sonoran Desert.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent Eric Cantu stands at the U.S.-Mexico border, marked here by a fence of steel poles to keep out cars.
Monica Alonzo
U.S. Border Patrol Agent Eric Cantu stands at the U.S.-Mexico border, marked here by a fence of steel poles to keep out cars.
A Border Patrol truck advertising the federal agency during a Customs and Border Protection job fair in Tucson.
Monica Alonzo
A Border Patrol truck advertising the federal agency during a Customs and Border Protection job fair in Tucson.

About 10 a.m., a nearby motion sensor planted in the desert by border-protection officials is activated, sounding an alarm for radio dispatchers working in the Border Patrol's Yuma Sector.

Agents Jose Sinohui and Aaron Hicks, riding together, respond to the call and unknowingly head in Atondo's direction.

When they get close, they see Atondo's truck. They spot the Jeeps. And then they see a man running west, away from the vehicles. They watch Atondo emerge from between his truck and the border fence, his gun drawn and pointed in the direction of the fleeing man. The two other men jump immediately into their Jeeps and speed into the Mexican interior, leaving behind Atondo, a billowing cloud of dust, and a host of questions for the agents who stumbled upon the scene.

Sinohui and Hicks park their truck and approach Atondo, who tells them that two men fled in the opposite direction. They ran east, he says, toward a hill on the Mexican side. He looks agitated as he runs back to his truck and drives away, supposedly in pursuit of the pair he claimed had escaped.

From their vantage point, Sinohui and Hicks have a view of the clearing and don't see any men running east. They get back in their truck and drive around a hill, where they find Atondo, sitting in his truck.

They pull up next to the obviously nervous Atondo and ask him what he's doing. Atondo blathers incoherently, telling the agents finally that he's searching for a misplaced flashlight.

Sinohui asks Atondo whether he called for backup when he encountered the men. Atondo says he tried but was unable to reach anyone because his radio isn't working.

Sinohui notices that Atondo's Velcro-backed name badge is missing from his uniform. He remembers Atondo wearing it during their morning briefing at headquarters in Wellton — Sinohui was paying close attention to names since he only recently was reassigned to patrol.

Atondo drives off again. Sinohui and Hicks again follow, ending up about 30 yards from the spot where they first came on the scene. Atondo gets out of his truck, walks up to the two agents and tells them — for the first time — that had come across some dope and loaded it into his Border Patrol truck.

Sinohui asks Atondo for permission to search his vehicle, and Atondo says yes.

Inside, Sinohui finds 44 bundles of marijuana — nearly 800 pounds — stacked neatly from back to front. And he notices that the bundles aren't packaged for burreros (human mules), who move such cargo across the desert in backpacks for drug traffickers. Such bundles would have been larger, wrapped in burlap and rope. Instead, these are smaller bricks secured only with tape.

It's an important detail, one that later counters Atondo's claim that he'd just stumbled upon the weed on the ground near the fence. Seasoned agents know that drug traffickers wouldn't leave such bundles for their mules — these bundles were meant to be moved by car.

Sinohui calls a superior to the scene.

Atondo is upset and paces back and forth as all three wait for Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Doug Owens.

When Owens arrives, Atondo fires off several versions of the day's events, including that he had stumbled upon the bundles of marijuana while searching for his missing flashlight, and that as he was loading the bales of weed in his truck, the Mexican men sneaked up on him.

Atondo's story doesn't add up.

It doesn't help that, after the morning briefing, he had asked Sinohui and other agents assigned to "The Line," the area where he was discovered, about routes they planned to take.

A Border Patrol supervisor also tells investigators that Atondo had made repeated requests to be assigned to patrol "The Line."

Two DEA special agents arrive at the Wellton Border Patrol Station about 7 p.m. to question Atondo about the estimated $370,000 worth of pot stuffed in his government truck. The investigation continues into the wee hours of the next morning — and at about 3 a.m. on April 5, the DEA agents haul away Atondo and the pot to their Yuma office. By 5 a.m., Atondo is on his way to the Yuma County Adult Detention Center, where he's booked.

On October 12, a U.S. District Court jury in Phoenix finds Agent Atondo, 34, guilty of three felony counts of conspiring to import marijuana and for possessing it with intent to distribute. He faces a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine for each count at his sentencing, scheduled January 9.

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43 comments
Bobby
Bobby

We know Monica, its' always about the "corrupt", Americans, never about the corrupt Mexicans. Nothing new here.

Luv82hotrod
Luv82hotrod

shoot a few of the illeagles and smugglers and leave theire bodies right there by the fence. that might stop some of them. problem solved

malapai
malapai

What a flock of ignorant assholes.

John Swanson
John Swanson

Regarding your article about drinking age in the USA.Ware do you get the figure of age 24 in some states?it is 21 in all states. There is no such thing as 24yrs old drinking age here.If your so concerned plz check ur facts THANK YOU. this is for TO A CONCERNED CITIZEN

malasangre
malasangre

"wide spread array and disillusions." that does sound scary.wtf is it?

JasonTodd Ready
JasonTodd Ready

Thank you for highlighting corrupt federal employees complicit in the narco-terrorist invasion of our nation: Micheal Angelo Antondo, Yamilkar Fierros, Jovana Samaniego Deas, Raul Portillo, Abel Canales, Luis Carlos Vasquez, Raquel Esquivel, Margarita Crispin... This article only further reinforces the prudent position that Latinos are a national security risk to our country and should be placed under far more scrutiny than their Anglo counterparts.

Gwmwllc
Gwmwllc

Two six foot high fences, no barb wire on top. Place them 100 yards apart on the US side of the border. Warning signs on the fences every 200 feet. AND LAND MINES IN BETWEEN THE FENCES. Problem solved.

Sherri
Sherri

this is months old, and the agent got busted and arrested...he was an idiot...and this is not as common as the illegal mexican drug runners and human traffickers want you to believe...there are corrupt people in EVERY organization...let's not be ignorant people...and most agents working the border actually do an amazing job...the only thing hindering them is all of the "political correct red tape" and protecting the rights of those who come illegally bringing drugs, trafficking, etc. and most of those get a slap on the wrist and sent home and guess who doesn't get the support they should? huh...yup border patrol.

Whatever People
Whatever People

Ummm, did you really think we had a problem because they have been keeping our borders safe for the last several decades?

King
King

Alcohol makes you do stupid things not weed asshole. How many people have you heard of that have gambled there life savings away from smoking a joint? How many dwi related deaths are attributed to marijuana use compared to alcohol. Stupid people like you is why we have issues in this world.

Enuf Istoomuch
Enuf Istoomuch

Okay, so I am not surprised that some percentage of cops go bad. That much is human nature. I cannot ignore that, at the same time, other cops caught them or turned them in.

The measure needed here is one of the rate of bad to good.

The action needed here is to fix whatever is broke, to improve not tear down.

Salvatore Scialabba III
Salvatore Scialabba III

My Husband is in New Mexico Jail and has been there for eight months due to the feds acussing him of Consipiring with the intent to distrubit 266 pounds of marijuana when he never had anymarijuana or anything that would make them think he had it. Tell me how bad is our goverment when they are putting people in prison for 10 yrs so they themselfs can allow shipments of drugs to go through while they are destracting the real cops until the bigger shipments can get through with no hassel.... SHUT THE GOVERMENT DOWN BEFORE WE ALL END UP IN PRISON.....

Salvatore Scialabba III
Salvatore Scialabba III

My Husband is in New Mexico Jail and has been there for eight months due to the feds acussing him of Consipiring with the intent to distrubit 266 pounds of marijuana when he never had any of it in his car or anything that would make them think he had it in his car. Tell me how bad is our goverment when they are putting people in prison for 10 yrs so they themselfs can allow shipments of drugs to go through while they are destracting the real cops until the bigger shipments can get through with no hassel.... SHUT THE GOVERMENT DOWN BEFORE WE ALL END UP IN PRISON.....

Chuy930
Chuy930

Get rid or waive the 38yr max age limit for federal law enforcement for healthy active over 38yr old retired military veterans who still want to continue to serve their country. This will help with more mature and professional minded personnel to take on the border and whatever challenges it poses. They have the experience leading troops, coordinating complex operations, and more importantly very patriotic! A 20yr military veteran has already proven his loyalty. That should curtail a lot of these issues, my two pennies, shiny or not.

no name
no name

put American troops on the border and within a few months the same thing will happen...one has to do with the cost of living, two the wages paid, and the impression that the only successful in the country are wealthy and money is power....

Stakman
Stakman

Maybe.... just maybe, we don't hire Hispanics to work the border????? Yamilkar Fierros, Jovana Samaniego Deas, Raul Portillo, Abel Canales, Luis Carlos Vasquez, Jovana Deas, Raquel Esquivel, Diego Esquivel, Margarita Crispin.... seems to be a common thread.... hmmmm

Fc
Fc

How is marijuana worse? or is it? Why is marijuana illegal, but alcohol is not?

Guest
Guest

They love to dish the crap whenever they can on the border patrol and the American people but they don't report half of the heinous crimes that illegal aliens commit. We want to know if a crime any crime that was committed by an illegal alien!!!!! TELL US!!!

Jason
Jason

The Border Patrol isn't corrupt, they are just stupid for knowingly allowing Mexican drug smugglers into the United States without question.

As for the Mexicans, they need to work with the United States to resolve border issues, border security, immigration, the criminal illegals, etc. It is the only way to resolve issues plaguing both the United States and Mexico.

Laura
Laura

Yamilkar Fierros, Jovana Samaniego Deas, Raul Portillo, Abel Canales, Luis Carlos Vasquez, Jovana Deas, Raquel Esquivel, Diego Esquivel, Margarita Crispin.... seems to be a common thread.... hmmmm

Petrafan2003
Petrafan2003

Americans are subject to full body scans and such . How about that at the border . and some kind of x-ray machine that can look into vehicles . Or are americans just treated like crap??

01JACK
01JACK

I really get a laugh when i read your good article about the border patrol agents busting people for pot.And how good of a job they do,but when SHERRIFF JOE does his job with DOPE AND ILLEGALS it is all wrong.I know he pissed you off,but he is doing the job i voted for him to do.And im not the only one who believes in that.All you guys do is stick up for the poor wet back illegals WHY.You really do not care about the laws,especially LIMONS he is an ass any way.THANKS AND HAVE A GOOD DAY.

Hrobster
Hrobster

Most Americans, are in complete AGREEMENT with you, whether you know it or not. It's our corrupt govenrment, intent on merging this blessed country with one of the most corrupt nations in the enitire world. How many heads got chopped off today in Narco state, and when is it going to come here.

Richard Winston
Richard Winston

Jeeze, Hitler, why don't you just put them in concentration camps?! You're the kind of cracker asshole I worry about going crazy and shooting up the post office or a mcdonald's.

Marcy
Marcy

So the Federal government should violate the US Constitution by discriminating in the hiring of people who have Hispanic names?

Ccainm
Ccainm

worse than what?

Bobby
Bobby

When in the hell will you wake the fu.. up. Illegal immigration is "PLAUGING", narco state, illegal immigration is helping to take care of narco states incompetence, and IS PLAUGING AMERICANS. Wake the f up BOY. Where were you when the good Lord handed out the brains???????

JESTERJACKSON
JESTERJACKSON

Wow Laura how brilliant of you to notice that a report about the border with MEXICO in a border state where people lived before Arizona was a state might have hispanic last names. ( Kinda like if you were to talk about the border with Canada I would expect more anglo last names.)

malasangre
malasangre

we've had that shit for a long time. do you know what year this is?

Guest
Guest

Evidently, we Americans are just the work horses paying for it all. We need some kind of device that they can detect tunnels too. Get the mining guys in here they'll tell us what needs to be done. Frankly, I pretty tired of all this illegal alien, Anchor Baby crap! We need to End Birthright Citizenship and deport all the illegal aliens no matter if they’re a man, woman or child ASAP! We need the Southern border closed and guarded with the military!!!!! One of the biggest problems is our politicians are lying down and letting the illegal aliens run all over them and America!!! It’s time for the real Americans to stand up and throw the politicians out on their ears! Then take care of this illegal alien problem once and for all.

Bobby
Bobby

Right on 01 Jack, I couldn't agree more. Only the mexican power groups, like La Raza, Lulac, Mecha, Maldef, and a thousand others, along with their sick leftist enablers, hate the Sheriff. He is doing exactly what a Sheriff is supposed to do. Too bad there aren't a thousand Sheriff Joes in the U.S.

Dogbiter
Dogbiter

o1jack, you must be high! the story isn;t about border agents doing a good job. quite the contrary. plus, joe arpaio is a punk-ass racist loser. he has never done anything that has helped to curb crime in his miserable career. soon he will be political toast, and you can suck some other nazi's dick.

Gray Race
Gray Race

And I get a laugh when I see dipshits like you thinking that Sheriff Joe actually is reducing illegal immigration. I still see wetbacks working in the back of Ranch market and there all over the place. The guy always like being a media whore and waste millions of tax payer money, and don't know why dumbasses like you vote for him? Mostly cause voters like you have IQ of fly.

Hrobster
Hrobster

He isn't Hitler but you sound like and anti-American leftist progressive buffoon.

Hrobster
Hrobster

Yes, but does any of this criminality coming across the border bother you. That's all we want to know.

Stakman
Stakman

Read the article ass

malasangre
malasangre

bla bla bla goober goober goober

Hrobster
Hrobster

round em up ship em out.

 
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