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.
U.S. border checkpoints are especially vulnerable as customs officers deal with thousands of cars a day.
Monica Alonzo
U.S. border checkpoints are especially vulnerable as customs officers deal with thousands of cars a day.
A van loaded with nearly 6,000 pounds of marijuana ran out of gas just before passing through Customs Officer Margarita Crispin's assigned border checkpoint.
A van loaded with nearly 6,000 pounds of marijuana ran out of gas just before passing through Customs Officer Margarita Crispin's assigned border checkpoint.

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.


Agent Michael A. Atondo is one of a growing number of officers responsible for national security who have been indicted or convicted for corruption.

This year, in Arizona alone, at least six federal employees posted along the U.S.-Mexico border were sent to prison or face prison time. They also were ordered to pay restitution to the U.S. government equal to the amount of illicit payments they received after going into business with criminals, a majority of whom are in the drug trade. The feds seized whatever graft the dirty agents amassed — including homes, cars, and jewelry.

These corrupt officers are but the tip of the iceberg in federal border-protection agencies that are riddled with problems — including minimal oversight of border agents, poor training, and shoddy background checks of recruits. All this makes it easier for drug traffickers to infiltrate the agencies and taint employees.

Even as federal lawmakers, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and Customs and Border Protection officials push to curtail the corruption through task forces and new laws, agents and officers continue to succumb to the temptation of money, sex, and power dangled before them by rich traffickers.

In May, a U.S. District Court judge sentenced Border Patrol agent Yamilkar Fierros to 20 months in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for providing confidential information to drug traffickers.

In June, Jovana Samaniego Deas, a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was charged in federal court with stealing documents from an investigative database for family and friends with ties to drug cartels in Mexico.

September was a busy month for authorities battling border corruption.

A federal jury indicted Raul Portillo, a former sergeant in the Army National Guard, in Tucson U.S. District Court for accepting bribes and recruiting a local cop to join him in a cocaine-smuggling scheme.

A federal grand jury in Tucson indicted Border Patrol Agent Abel Canales in September for accepting a bribe in 2008 in exchange for letting a U-Haul loaded with drugs and immigrants pass through his checkpoint in southern Arizona.

Investigators say Canales asked the U-Haul driver whether he was a U.S. citizen, and the driver replied, "Buenos días." Without further questioning, Canales allowed him to continue through the checkpoint heading north on Interstate 19.

The man who arranged the deal exchanged several phone calls with Canales, and the two met that evening at a Walmart in Nogales. Canales, still wearing his Border Patrol uniform, walked over to the other man's car and pocketed a manila envelope containing $8,000.

That same month, Customs and Border Protection Officer Luis Carlos Vasquez was indicted for his role in a drug-smuggling operation connected to Mexican suspects. Authorities say, on one occasion, the 32-year-old agent allowed more than 1,200 pounds of pot in a Chevy Avalanche to pass through his inspection lane at the Douglas border crossing.

In October, ICE Agent Jason Lowery was arrested after leading cops on a 45-minute chase as he tossed loads of marijuana out of his government truck.

Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General, one of the agencies that investigates corruption by U.S. border personnel, reports that its investigations have led to the arrests of 160 Customs and Border Protection employees on suspicion of corruption since 2004. As of June, it had 267 open corruption investigations of CBP employees.


Many of the agents who get mixed up with drug-trafficking organizations are lured by plata o sexo, a bribe involving either money or sex.

Others are sucked in by family members who already are involved in drug- or human-smuggling rings.

Some are even groomed by drug cartels to infiltrate U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Typically, according to court records and investigation reports, smugglers compensate corrupt customs officers for allowing loads of drugs, weapons, or immigrants to pass into the United States. Other agents, like Michael Atondo, are paid to pick up drugs stashed in the desert and deliver them in government vehicles. Others sell confidential information, such as locations of desert motion sensors, agents' patrol patterns, or confidential documents.

ICE Agent Jovana Deas, 33, who was indicted in September, started her government career in 2003 as a Border Patrol officer in Nogales. She became an ICE special agent for the Homeland Security Investigation unit in 2008 and apparently didn't waste any time before using her position to "illegally help family members south of the border with ties to drug-trafficking organizations," federal officials said at the time of her arrest in June.

Investigators believe she started stealing information in July 2008 and continued until she was caught in April 2011. She periodically checked to see whether certain individuals were under investigation, and when they were, she copied all available files — including reports detailing cases law enforcement officials were building against them — and arranged for delivery of the privileged information to the suspects.

Deas' scheme started to unravel in February after she made repeated unauthorized inquiries about one of her sister's friends — a man under investigation from Agua Prieta in Mexico.

The agent heading the investigation was alerted by the agency's computer system that Deas was electronically rifling through the suspect's case files. When Deas noticed red flags on the files, she called the agent on the case to attempt to explain away her actions, according to court records. She claimed that a new informant had given her information about the suspect, and that's what prompted her research.

But, when she was confronted in May by investigators from ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility (which handles internal investigations), she admitted grabbing the information because the suspect wanted to know what the feds had on him.

The electronic trail of Deas' pilfering revealed that she had accessed more than a dozen FBI and ICE case files, including her father's and that of a former Mexican customs official.

The case against her is pending, and she remains on unpaid leave.

Deas did it for family, but others do it for lovers.

Raquel Esquivel was getting ready to leave her job at her hometown bank to start a new career guarding the nation's borders. She was set to begin training at a Border Patrol Academy in just a couple of months when the 22-year-old ran into Diego Esquivel, an old high school boyfriend, at a grocery store in Del Rio, Texas.

The two, who are not related, reignited an old romance.

"We were friends. We would go to Mexico, hang out at other friends' houses. We went to the circus. She asked me what I was up to. I told her I was working at [Laughlin Air Force] Base, but [that] I also had another job and that was smuggling marijuana into the United States. She just said to be careful," Diego testified during a court proceeding after he eventually was busted for drug smuggling.

She never told authorities about her boyfriend's drug dealings and continued the relationship.

When a government attorney asked him in court what Diego thought about Raquel Esquivel's pursuing a job with the Border Patrol, he replied: "I thought that was good for her. At [that] moment, I thought it was good for me, too."

It proved to be very good for Diego and the men he worked for in Mexico. When Esquivel completed her training, Diego reported his relationship with Raquel to his Mexican drug bosses.

"We talked about, you know, maybe we could use her to help us out in our smuggling ventures . . . off the Pecos River. She was working that area," Diego said in court.

After just a couple of months on the job, Border Patrol Agent Esquivel started providing information to her drug-smuggling lover to help him evade federal and local authorities. She told him which roads to avoid, locations of motion sensors in the desert, and that only one sheriff's deputy worked the area.

"Was that information helpful to you?" a government lawyer asked Diego Esquivel, who testified against his girlfriend to reduce the prison sentence he was facing.

"It was.We told the people in Mexico what we were doing, who we had providing us information. They were very pleased, and they said to keep her happy, keep her on our side."

Raquel Esquivel also gave Diego a Border Patrol uniform, complete with a hat.

"The big cartels in Mexico, they disguise themselves as the AFI [Agencia Federal de Investigación, Mexico's version of the FBI] to go either to take loads from other drug dealers or just to stop people in the streets. I thought maybe we could do something like that with a Border Patrol uniform," he testified.

Diego and his ring of drug smugglers were busted in late 2007, right after they picked up 600 pounds of weed at the Pecos River ramp in south Texas. He testified that they ignored repeated warnings from Raquel that Border Patrol agents knew about their smuggling.

When this drug-smuggling operation came to an end, so did Agent Esquivel's fledgling Border Patrol career.

In exchange for the uniform and inside intelligence that Raquel Esquivel provided during the course of their intimate relationship, Diego Esquivel said he gave her perfume, dinners, lunches, and $50 or $60 a couple of times to buy groceries, according to court records.

For the romance and roughly $2,000 worth of meals and gifts, Raquel Esquivel got 15 years in prison for her role in the drug-smuggling conspiracy. She was convicted in federal court in April 2009.

Drug traffickers often search out weak links among border-security officers.

Margarita Crispin, a customs agent working in El Paso, was discovered to have socialized with known drug traffickers, several of whom were her boyfriends, and had other personal ties to drug traffickers in Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.

Authorities believe she raked in about $5 million over three years for allowing thousands of pounds of marijuana into the United States through her border post.

FBI reports reveal that the agent, who lived a meager life in El Paso, secretly purchased two expensive homes in Mexico, luxury cars, and was treating family members to extravagant European vacations.

She was first suspected of gaming the system in late 2004, when an ICE informant tipped off federal authorities in El Paso.

Informants or suspects facing hefty drug charges and lengthy prison stints are apt to sell out dirty officers for more lenient sentences.

The FBI, along with ICE and DEA agents, began surveillance of Crispin at her job, plus started digging into her private life and finances.

Not long after her hire, they observed Crispin socializing with drug traffickers. She would wave away drug-sniffing dogs from her checkpoint, claiming that she was afraid of the animals. But investigators needed more.

FBI officials report that in May 2006, suspicions were aroused further when a van going through Crispin's lane ran out of gas, and its drivers jumped out and ran back into Mexico.

When other inspectors opened the door, they found about 6,000 pounds of marijuana. Crispin had no explanation why the van was in her lane. Later that day, she went home sick.

Law enforcement got a break when someone tipped them off that a truck loaded with marijuana would pass through her lane on July 7, 2007. Crispin waved the driver through, and federal agents stopped the vehicle just after the checkpoint. They discovered nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana inside.

"This seizure — along with intelligence information, analysis of Crispin's finances, telephone toll records, witness interviews, and documented surveillance — was enough for a federal indictment," says an FBI report on Crispin. "On July 25, 2007, Crispin reported for work, just like any other day. Only, this time, federal officers were there to greet her . . . and walked her out in handcuffs."

In April 2008, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her extensive role in drug smuggling.

Crispin's case illustrates how difficult it can be for federal investigators to take down dirty agents. Had it not been for the informant, she might never have been discovered.

April Langwell, a spokeswoman for FBI's San Diego's office, tells New Times that building cases against corrupt agents usually is a complex process.

"What makes these cases especially difficult is that [the agents] know how to cover their tracks," she says. "A lot of these investigations are very long-term. It's not just about saying that they're suspected [of corruption] but proving it to such a degree that they [can be] prosecuted."

Indeed, Crispin's lavish purchases in Mexico were difficult to track, enabling her to disguise that she was living a lifestyle far beyond what's possible on a customs officer's salary (which starts at about $39,000 a year).

With millions of vehicles and individuals crossing the border every year, customs officers don't have much time to consider each one.

"They have just a few seconds to deal with the traffic — either to wave [drivers] through or send them for a second inspection," Langwell says. "It's hard to say what is purposeful. We have to prove intent, not laziness."


In 2006, when President George W. Bush ordered a hiring surge to bolster enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border, thousands of men and women joined border-protection ranks without polygraph exams or thorough investigations into their backgrounds.

The frenzy bumped up the Border Patrol to more than 21,700 agents, double the agent count in 2004.

Shawn Moran, vice president of the labor union that represents Border Patrol agents, tells New Times that standards dropped in a rush to meet hiring goals.

Moran says trainees "really had to screw up to get fired or get thrown out of a [Border Patrol training] academy."

The running joke in those days, he says, was: "No trainee left behind."

Only it wasn't much of a joke. New agents graduated from the academy before background checks were completed. Even those who ultimately got rejected for failing their background checks walked away with knowledge of how the agency operates — which could be shared with smugglers for a price.

Moran says, too often, the prevailing attitude among agency officials was: "It's a warm body."

CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin testified before a Senate committee in June about his agency's effort to quell the growing instances of border corruption.

"In the vast majority of cases, we brought exceptional new agents and officers on board," he claimed. "But in some cases, I fully acknowledge that the agency has suffered from the corruption of employees."

He said the "accelerated hiring pace under which we operated between 2006 and 2008 — and, frankly, the mistakes from which we are learning — exposed critical organizational and individual vulnerabilities within CBP."

Bersin conceded that the massive influx of new hires in that past few years has left the federal agency with a workforce that is "younger, less experienced, and in need of seasoned supervisors."

Indeed, a government accountability audit mentions this lack of supervision, among the other problems noted above.

The March 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office cited an ongoing weakness in border security stemming from a "lack of focus and complacency, lack of supervisory presence, and lack of training."

The labor union's Moran believes that CBP officials could restore integrity to the agency by reversing a decision to eliminate as many as six weeks of training from the curriculums at training academies.

He explains that Spanish-speaking trainees who can pass an academy's language test shave about six weeks off their time there — even if their English skills are lacking.

"We know of agents who could barely speak, read, or write English, and they were being allowed to graduate," Moran says.

Fewer weeks in the academy also means less time for agents to bond with their colleagues, he says, and for instructors to identify unsuitable agents.

"The whole mindset that you are in law enforcement and that you need to function that way has changed [to bolster the Border Patrol's ranks]," Moran says.

Though federal officials wouldn't relate any specific cases, there is anecdotal evidence that Mexican smuggling cartels have recruited people to join border-protection agencies to further their illegal enterprises.

James Tomsheck, the CBP's assistant commissioner for internal affairs, told the New York Times in December 2009 that there have been "verifiable instances where people were directed to CBP to apply for positions only for the purpose of enhancing the goals of criminal organizations. They had been selected because they had no criminal record."

Tomsheck continued that "several prospective hires" were turned away after CBP officials suspected what was going on and that "several recent hires" were under investigation — suggesting that such cartel recruits have made their way in.

All these problems are supposed to be remedied over time with President Barack Obama's signing of the Anti-Border Corruption Act last January 4. The law requires CBP officials to perform polygraph tests on all prospective employees and to conduct ongoing background checks. The problem is, agencies don't have to be in full compliance until January 2013.

Meanwhile, political pressure to beef up border security has added several thousand inadequately trained and screened agents to the nation's border-protection force.

Even with the new law looming, CBP's website notifies applicants only that there is "a high probability you will be subject to a polygraph examination."

U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), who introduced the Anti-Border Corruption Act, tells New Times that CBP officials "should have been doing [proper screening] all along, but they were not complying with their own rules and regulations."

Moran believes that federal lawmakers are placing too much emphasis on polygraphs and not enough on training.

"They're unreliable," he says of polygraphs. "There is a reason why they're not allowed in court. And anyone who is a true criminal isn't going to have guilt, and the exam won't ferret them out."

Federal officials' failures to better screen potential employees made it possible for Yamilkar Fierros to enlist in the nation's border-protection ranks.

In September 2009, just more than a year after joining the Border Patrol, Fierros was paid $5,500 by a drug trafficker for a map of the San Rafael Valley detailing roads, trails, and a list of 174 government sensor locations in the desert near Sonoita, about 30 miles north of the Mexican border. He also agreed to help move a load of drugs from Patagonia to Tucson.

He was arrested the next month, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 20 months in prison in May.

The rising corruption among CBP officers opens the door to more than criminal syndicates smuggling drugs, weapons, and immigrants into the country. Terrorists can sneak into the United States using the same smuggling routes that cartels and coyotes have used for decades.

The GAO report detailing weakness along the U.S. border checkpoints also highlighted that in 2008, three people linked to terrorism were among immigrants caught trying to slip into the country.

The audit offers no specifics about these three suspects. However, Said Jaziri, a radical Muslim cleric, traveled from Tunisia to Tijuana and sneaked into California before he was caught.

In January, U.S. border authorities arrested Jaziri, whom they found in the trunk of a BMW bound for San Diego. He had been deported three years earlier from Canada for lying on his application for refugee status.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Jaziri took a flight from Africa to Europe, then to Central America and Chetumal, Mexico. From there, he took a bus to Tijuana and allegedly paid $5,000 to smugglers to get him over the border.

Following a guide on foot, Jaziri and a Mexican immigrant jumped the border fence near Tecate and trekked overnight through rugged back country to the spot near San Diego where he was picked up by the BMW driver. He was caught after witnesses saw him climb into the trunk of the car and alerted police.


FBI spokeswoman April Langwell tells New Times that investigators get tipped off about potentially corrupt officers through confidential informants, suspects in other crimes who want to cut deals, or colleagues who suspect their co-workers are involved in shady activity.

Federal investigators plant undercover agents and host joint task forces to tempt the bad officers out of hiding. Operation Lively Green started almost a decade ago in December 2001, but it still is producing results as prosecutors pursue cases against dozens of public officials, including from the Arizona Army National Guard, the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Nogales Police Department, and the Border Patrol.

Charles K. Edwards, Homeland Security's acting inspector general, told a U.S. Senate committee in June that violent Mexican drug gangs, such as Los Zetas, have become increasingly involved in corrupting DHS employees.

"Obvious targets of corruption are . . . CBP officers; less obvious are those employees who can provide access to sensitive law enforcement and intelligence information, allowing the cartels to track investigative activity," Edwards told federal lawmakers.

One of the men caught in Lively Green was John Miguel Castillo, an unremarkable Border Patrol officer who manned a border entry point in Nogales.

During his four years working for the federal agency, the inspector had seized only two loads of drugs. As he toiled presumably to keep drugs out of the country, his brother Damian worked with Mexican drug traffickers to smuggle them in.

On a fateful day in 2002, Castillo found himself chatting with Damian and Damian's friend, Raul Portillo, a sergeant in the Arizona Army National Guard.

Portillo offered Castillo an opportunity to make easy money by joining them in working for Mexican drug smugglers. Castillo initially rebuffed the offer, even though his brother was part of the conspiracy.

"We've done it before, and it's on the up-and-up," Portillo told Castillo, trying to assuage the agent's fears. Castillo mulled the offer for two weeks and eventually agreed to help out.

Portillo introduced Castillo to drug-trafficking contacts he recently had made, and on April 2, 2002, Castillo flew to California to meet with the contacts' "uncle," presumably a higher-ranking cartel member. The next stop was a yacht, where they discussed how Castillo might get involved in the trade and recruit others.

He would be paid a bonus if he brought in other agents, they told him.

Although Castillo agreed to join the criminal ring, he wasn't sold on the idea. He was reluctant to recruit, saying he wouldn't know how to approach someone with such an offer. He expressed concern about how the drug smugglers would send vehicles through his lane.

Castillo was handed an envelope containing $1,000 — an advance, they told him — which they said he was free to keep even if he chose to back out.

Neither Castillo, his brother, Damian, nor Portillo knew that they were actually dealing with FBI undercover agents posing as Mexican drug smugglers.

Dismissing his moral dilemma, Castillo allowed what he believed were two loads of cocaine to pass through his lane on April 12, 2002, at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales. Four months later, he sold immigration documents to an FBI agent to allow alleged illegal immigrants into the United States.

Castillo did wind up recruiting somebody: Raphael Hernandez, an Arizona Department of Corrections employee who agreed to transport drugs.

As the network of corruption grew, Castillo served as a scout in March 2003 to ensure safe delivery of a drug shipment through Nogales. On the same day, he was asked to drive a load across a border checkpoint.

He repeatedly told an undercover agent that he didn't want to go through with the delivery because dogs at the border checkpoint would discover the drugs. Testing his limits, the agent told Castillo several times that the dogs would be removed and that he had paid another dirty customs officer $5,000 to make sure Castillo made it safely across.

Finally, Castillo — who had accepted about $32,000 in bribes — agreed and made his way through the checkpoint, where he was arrested.

Castillo was convicted in the conspiracy and sentenced to five years in prison in May 2007.

Building a case against Portillo, the 38-year-old National Guard sergeant who lured Castillo into the drug ring, took much longer.

On January 2002, a few months before pulling Castillo into the conspiracy, Portillo had met with the undercover agents, who he believed were drug traffickers, and offered to move the organization's product.

In February 2002, Portillo drove cocaine to Las Vegas from Tucson in his official government vehicle. He wore his Army-issued uniform and carried his military identification to make sure the white powder made it safely to its destination. He did the same in April 2002, only this time driving the powder to Tucson from Nogales. He pocketed $12,000 for the trips — and had gotten an extra $2,000 for recruiting Castillo.

Although an arrest warrant was issued for Portillo in 2006, investigators didn't capture him until last May. He was arraigned and inexplicably released on "personal recognizance," after the suspected drug dealer promised to show up for all his court dates.

That didn't happen, and Portillo is on the lam.

In his absence, a federal grand jury in Tucson handed down a 10-count indictment against him in September on charges of conspiracy, bribery, and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

"With more and more security, technology, and other means to protect our country, smugglers and criminals are changing the way they do business," Langwell says. "One way to do that is to have agents on the take."

She says nearly all the agents working the border carry out their assignments with integrity but that the "ones taking bribes to allow smuggling groups [to operate] are especially dangerous, given all the terrorist threats we face in this global community.

"For those who sell out their country for a few thousand dollars, it's especially troubling."

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39 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.

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.

Hrobster
Hrobster

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

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

Marcy
Marcy

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

Fc
Fc

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

Ccainm
Ccainm

worse than what?

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.

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???????

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

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.)

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

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??

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.

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.

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.

 
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