(CNSNews.com) - A U.S. Border Patrol Agent, working on the U.S. Mexico border in Southern California, has pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges that involved using an official Border Patrol vehicle to move what the agent understood to be illegal drugs, according to a statement released June 22 by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for Southern District of California.
The agent, Noe Lopez, will face sentencing in November.
“According to the plea agreement, in November 2016, Lopez and a confidential source whom Lopez believed to be a drug trafficker agreed to a plan whereby Lopez would retrieve backpacks containing what Lopez believed to be controlled substances from the north side of the United States/Mexico border fence while on duty with the Border Patrol,” said a press release from the U.S. attorney for the southern district of California.
“Lopez admitted that he agreed to transport the backpacks in his Border Patrol vehicle and deliver them to the source in exchange for thousands of dollars,” said the U.S. attorney’s release.
“On November 30, 2016, Lopez purchased three backpacks that would be used to transport the controlled substances and gave the backpacks to the source,” said the release. “They agreed that on December 6, 2016, Lopez would retrieve a backpack containing six pounds of methamphetamine while on duty with the Border Patrol and deliver the backpack to the source. Lopez told the source where to place the backpack containing methamphetamine on the north side of the United States/Mexico border.”
“Lopez drove to the location in his Border Patrol vehicle and retrieved the backpack,” said the release. “He returned to the Border Patrol Station and placed the backpack in his personal vehicle. At the conclusion of his Border Patrol work shift, Lopez met the source at a parking lot in Chula Vista, where Lopez gave the source the backpack containing what Lopez believed to be six pounds of methamphetamine.”
“On December 7, 2016,” said the release, “the source paid Lopez $3,000 for retrieving and delivering the purported methamphetamine.”
The next day, Lopez carried out a similar act.
“This scenario was repeated on December 8, 2016, except the backpack purportedly contained seven kilograms of cocaine,” said the U.S. attorney’s release. “On December 9, 2016, the source paid Lopez $7,000 for retrieving and delivering the purported cocaine.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson noted the security threat posed by “corrupt Border Patrol agents.”
“It’s an audacious thing for an on-duty Border Patrol agent to transport what he believes to be methamphetamine and cocaine in his official vehicle, on behalf of drug traffickers,” said Robinson. “While there are a relatively small number of them, corrupt Border Patrol agents are a national security threat, and for that reason they are a very high prosecutorial priority.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum said his agency was working to weed out that “corrupt few” from otherwise dedicated public servants.
“The vast majority of public servants who work at the local, state, and federal levels of government are honest and dedicated folks who strive every day to do the right thing for their constituents, their communities, and their country,” said Birnbaum.
“In the U.S. and abroad, the FBI is doing everything we can to help ensure that the good name of the vast majority of public servants is not besmirched by a corrupt few,” he said.
“This type of corruption at our San Diego borders,” he said, “strikes at the heart of government and erodes public confidence, therefore, the investigation of public corruption is one of FBI’s top criminal priorities.”