YUMA - The FBI says U.S. Border Patrol Agent Aaron Anaya was on duty, when fellow agents busted him with bundles of weed in his patrol truck.
It happened Sunday evening near the international border in a remote area between Yuma and Wellton.
According to a federal complaint, Anaya, an agent assigned to the Wellton station, loaded up several bundles of marijuana into his patrol truck. Three men dropped the bundles over the border fence from Mexico. The complaint says agents busted Anaya with nearly 150 pounds of pot in three black duffel bags.
The street value of the marijuana is estimated to be between $80,000 and $90,000.
The Feds are charging Anaya with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and carrying a firearm while committing the crime.
Aaron Anaya, 25, joined the Border Patrol back in 2010. He was stationed in Wellton and a multi-agency task force caught him loading 147-pounds of marijuana into his Border Patrol vehicle at the border fence.
Anaya is a federal agent sworn to keep drugs out of the country, apparently caught red-handed smuggling pot. We asked people in Yuma how they felt about it.
"First of all, I'm a taxpayer and I'm paying that bill. Two, they're supposed to be guarding the border," said Max Curiel.
"They're supposed to be honest. It doesn't make me feel that good. Honesty's the best policy," said Carlos Vazquez.
Honesty may be the best policy, but it's not the most lucrative. Based on public federal payscales, Anaya probably pulls down a base salary between $33,000 and $38,000 a year.
If each pound of marijuana is worth $600 on the street, Agent Anaya was attempting to smuggle more than $88,000 worth of pot into the country.
"I think everybody's open to temptation, but Border Patrol, I think they do a great job. There's always a bad apple that gets tempted. It happens."
It does happen.
According to Yuma Sector Border Patrol, in 2008, 21 current or former CBP employees were arrested or indicted on corruption charges. In 2009, the number increased to 29. The numbers dropped to 18 and 15 corruption cases in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
As the problem has grown, so has the size of the Office of Internal Affairs, from a staff size of 150 people in 2006 to 615 people today.
So what lies ahead for Agent Anaya? First of all, Border Patrol says employees charged with felonies are suspended from duty without pay until the criminal proceedings are complete. If convicted, they are fired.
We did a little checking to see what kinds of sentences convicted agents got for similar charges. In March of this year, former Yuma Border Patrol Agent Michael Angelo Atondo was sentenced to eight years in prison. Atondo was found guilty of smuggling more than 700 pounds of pot into the country. Incidentally, Atondo was also stationed out of Wellton.
Agent Anaya will still have his day in court, but even he may have his doubts about the outcome. Authorities say when confronted with the evidence, Anaya dropped the F-bomb and said, "you have it on video."
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