Border Patrol Agents Convicted Of Smuggling Immigrants
Two former Border Patrol agents were found guilty Friday of smuggling hundreds of people into the U.S. in Border Patrol vehicles.
Raul and Fidel Villarreal were convicted of charges that they brought illegal immigrants into the U.S. for money and received bribes by public officials, and counts of conspiracy to launder money. Prosecutors said Raul Villarreal started a ring that smuggled in Mexicans and Brazilians and made Fidel Villarreal, his older brother and a fellow agent, one of his first recruits.
Both brothers pleaded not guilty in one of the highest-profile corruption cases to sting the Border Patrol since it went on a hiring spree during the last decade. Raul Villarreal had been a public face of the patrol, frequently appearing on television as an agency spokesman.
The federal probe began in May 2005 with an informant’s tip to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Investigators installed cameras on poles in areas where migrants were dropped off, planted undercover recording devices, put tracking instruments on Border Patrol vehicles and followed a smuggling load by airplane.
The prosecution also relied on accounts of alleged accomplices and migrants who entered the country illegally, including some who identified Fidel Villarreal in photographs. One 24-year-old Brazilian woman said she paid $12,000 to be taken across the border in “a police car.”