Customs Officer Bribed to Let Immigrants into United States Illegally Gets Minimum Prison Time

A U.S. customs officer who pleaded guilty to accepting bribes to allow immigrants into the country illegally, is heading to the joint, compliments of a federal judge.

Jose Carmelo Magana, 46, of Yuma, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg to serve 37 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for taking bribes to allow immigrants to enter the country illegally.

Magana pleaded guilty to attempting to bring illegal aliens into the United States and acceptance of a bribe by a public official on October 21, after entering into an agreement with Mexican and American smugglers to allow immigrants to funnel unchecked through his lane at the San Luis entry point.

According to the Justice Department, Jesus Gastelum-Rodriguez, Guadalupe Milan de Gastelum, and others paid Magana to allow them to pass through his lane at the border checkpoint as they accompanied a man they all new to be an illegal immigrant on November 13, 2007.

The two men were paid smuggling fees, a portion of which they gave to Magana.

In addition to prison time and supervised release, Magana must pay a $4,000 fine and forfeit $5,100 to the federal government in a companion civil case.

Magana got lucky, though. Three years is the minimum mandatory penalty for attempting to bring illegal immigrants into the country.

Depending on Judge Teilborg's mood, Magana could have spent 10 years in the slammer and had to pay a $250,000 fine.  

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