A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to accepting cash and sexual favors from smugglers in exchange for permitting them to bring undocumented aliens into the United States without inspection through his lane at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Officer Jose Luis Cota, 50, was arrested last September following an alien smuggling event with co-defendants Miriam Juarez-Herrera and Gilberto Aguilar-Martinez. The two Mexican nationals pleaded guilty last week.
“This officer violated the public’s trust for his own personal benefit and financial gain, while risking our nation’s safety and security,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson. “Combatting this type of border corruption will remain one of our office’s highest priorities.”
According to his plea agreement, Cota — a 15-year veteran with Customs and Border Protection — pleaded guilty to three counts of bringing in unlawful aliens for financial gain and one count of bribery of a public official.
Cota admitted that from at least November 2015 through September 2016 he conspired with Juarez-Herrera to smuggle and transport unlawful aliens from Mexico into the United States for financial gain, charging as much as $15,000 per person.
Cota and Juarez-Herrera had an agreement that as part of the criminal enterprise, Juarez-Herrera would locate and recruit undocumented aliens in Mexico who wanted to be smuggled into the United States. Those undocumented aliens would then be smuggled through Cota’s vehicle lane at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Cota also received bribes from Juarez-Herrera in the form of cash and sexual favors in exchange for permitting her and the undocumented aliens to enter the United States from Mexico without inspection.
Sentencing for Cota was set for April 7. The defendant — who is out of custody on bond — submitted his letter of resignation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection effective immediately, authorities said.
–City News Service
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