Border Patrol Agent Charged With Accepting Bribe to Allow Contraband-Filled Truck to Pass Through Checkpoint

For the second time this month, a federal agent in Arizona has been charged with a corruption-based crime.

The U.S. Attorney's Office announced today that U.S. Border Patrol agent Abel Canales has been indicted for accepting a bribe to allow a U-Haul truck he thought was filled with either drugs or illegal immigrants to pass through a southern Arizona border checkpoint.

Canales, authorities say, allowed the U-Haul to pass through the I-19 Border Patrol checkpoint yesterday. After the truck made safe passage into the U.S., Canales was seen making contact with a co-conspirator, who handed him an envelope full of cash.

Yesterday, the unnamed co-conspirator met with someone he believed to be a drug dealer and human smuggler in Rio Rico. The co-conspirator told the faux-smuggler to have the U-Haul travel north on I-19 to the checkpoint where Canales was stationed.

The co-conspirator positioned his vehicle directly in front of the U-Haul as the two vehicles passed through the checkpoint. When Canales -- who'd been in contact with the co-conspirator that morning -- recognized the co-conspirator's vehicle, he instructed another agent to take it to a secondary inspection area. Meanwhile, Canales handled the U-Haul, which he believed to be full of contraband.

"Are you an American citizen," Canales asked the driver of the U-Haul.

"Buenos dias," the fake smuggler responded, before being ushered through the checkpoint by Canales.

After the U-Haul passed through the checkpoint without incident, the co-conspirator met with two men he believed to be smugglers, who gave him a manilla envelope containing $8,000.

Shortly after the meeting with the phony smugglers, the co-conspirator met with Canales at a Wal-Mart in Nogales, where -- still wearing his Border Patrol uniform -- he was witnessed retrieving the envelope of cash.

Canales has been charged with one count each of conspiracy to accept a bribe and accepting a bribe. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

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James King
Contact: James King