Ex-Border Patrol agents get at least 30 years for smuggling ring

San Diego

Ex-Border Patrol agents get at least 30 years for smuggling ring

Posted:

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge on Friday sentenced two brothers who worked as Border Patrol agents to at least 30 years in prison for smuggling hundreds of immigrants into the United States.

U.S. District Court Judge John Houston sentenced Raul Villarreal to 35 years for leading the smuggling ring. His brother, Fidel Villarreal, was sentenced to 30 years for managing the operation.

The sentences are among the longest given to border law enforcement officials.

Houston said he gave the severe sentences to deter others. The judge called their smuggling operation "disgusting" and a threat to national security.

The brothers were accused of helping more than 500 migrants cross the border from Mexico.

Prosecutors said Raul Villarreal — who made television appearances as an agency spokesman and once played the role of a smuggler in a public service ad —recruited his brother to his ring that smuggled in Mexicans and Brazilians. One Brazilian woman told investigators she paid $12,000 to cross.

Federal officials said they also took bribes from public officials.

The federal probe began in May 2005 when an informant tipped off the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Investigators installed cameras in areas where migrants were dropped off, planted recording devices and placed tracking instruments on Border Patrol vehicles. They also trailed the ring's smuggling operations by airplane.

Prosecutors said when the brothers learned they were being investigated in June 2006, they quit their jobs and fled to Mexico.

Two years later, the brothers were arrested. They were extradited to the U.S. and charged with human smuggling, witness tampering and bribery.

Raul Villarreal's attorney, David Nick, had argued the prosecution's witnesses were not credible and surveillance yielded no evidence of wrongdoing by his client.

Fidel's attorney, Zenia Gilg, echoed that argument, saying the prosecution's case rested largely on two alleged accomplices who were promised leniency for testifying and "inconsistent statements" from migrants.

The Border Patrol has suffered a string of such embarrassments since doubling its size in less than a decade, including the case of an agent who pleaded guilty in April to smuggling marijuana while on duty along the Arizona-Mexico border.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • National

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits willMore >>
    Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits will be delayed if congressional Republicans fail to increase the government's borrowing authority in a looming showdown over the nation's debt and spending.More >>
  • Got Solar? Utility looking to place solar panels on a home near you

    Got Solar? Utility looking to place solar panels on a home near you

    Arizona's top utility company is looking to place solar panels on 3,000 homes; at no cost to the homeownerArizona Public Service announced that they plan on placing these panels on residents homes and in turn for the usage of their roofs the utility company will give them a $30 discount on their monthly bill for the next 20 years. If approved by regulators APS will spend anywhere from 50 to 70 million in project costs. This new initiative will help the utility giant meets it's mandatory alter...More >>
    Arizona's top utility company is looking to place solar panels on 3,000 homes; at no cost to the homeownerArizona Public Service announced that they plan on placing these panels on residents homes and in turn for the usage of their roofs the utility company will give them a $30 discount on their monthly bill for the next 20 years. If approved by regulators APS will spend anywhere from 50 to 70 million in project costs. This new initiative will help the utility giant meets it's mandatory alter...More >>
  • Facebook Recovering After Brief Outage

    Facebook Recovering After Brief Outage

    If you experienced issues logging ontoFacebooktoday, you're not alone. The site went down for most users around 12 p.m. ET on Friday. Users began to regain access to the site about 30 minutes later, according to various tweets.Mashablehas been able to access the site, although response time has been slower than usual. For the duration of the outage, visitors to Facebook.com were greeted with the following message: Facebook'sdeveloper webpagewent down with the site during the initial outage, b...More >>
    If you experienced issues logging ontoFacebooktoday, you're not alone. The site went down for most users around 12 p.m. ET on Friday. Users began to regain access to the site about 30 minutes later, according to various tweets.Mashablehas been able to access the site, although response time has been slower than usual. For the duration of the outage, visitors to Facebook.com were greeted with the following message: Facebook'sdeveloper webpagewent down with the site during the initial outage, b...More >>
  • Body found along trail; death called suspicious

    Body found along trail; death called suspicious

    The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office says a 43-year-old Peoria man's body has been found along a forest trail and his death is being called suspicious.More >>
    The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office says a 43-year-old Peoria man's body has been found along a forest trail and his death is being called suspicious.More >>
  • Yuma

    Transit director responds to bus rider concerns

    Transit director responds to bus rider concerns

    YUMA, AZ (13 On Your Side) - Yesterday, 13 On Your Side spoke with 72-year-old Robert Perez, who uses public transportation and isn't happy with the service he's getting. He says, "you have to wait inMore >>
    Yesterday, 13 On Your Side spoke with 72-year-old Robert Perez, who uses public transportation and isn't happy with the service he's getting.More >>
  • Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. Agrees to Accept up to $100 Million Additional Financing from Arizona Alternative Energy Center, LLC for San Luis, Arizona Tower

    Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. Agrees to Accept up to $100 Million Additional Financing from Arizona Alternative Energy Center, LLC for San Luis, Arizona Tower

    ANNAPOLIS, MD / ACCESSWIRE / July 14, 2014 / Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. (OTCQB: SWET), (the “Company”), the inventor of large Solar Wind Downdraft Tower structures capable of producing abundant,...More >>
    ANNAPOLIS, MD / ACCESSWIRE / July 14, 2014 / Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc. (OTCQB: SWET), (the “Company”), the inventor of large Solar Wind Downdraft Tower structures capable of producing abundant, inexpensive...More >>
  • Father time reared his head

    Father time reared his head

    As UCLA tallied the damage from rampant flooding triggered by the rupture of a 90-year-old city water line, Los Angeles city leaders on Wednesday were once again confronted with the consequences of deferred maintenance on the city's aging infrastructure. Officials have long known that hundreds of miles of city water lines have deteriorated and need replacement, with many past the century mark. But in recent years, L.A.'s elected leaders have been unwilling to hike water rates enough to fix th...More >>
    As UCLA tallied the damage from rampant flooding triggered by the rupture of a 90-year-old city water line, Los Angeles city leaders on Wednesday were once again confronted with the consequences of deferred maintenance on the city's aging infrastructure. Officials have long known that hundreds of miles of city water lines have deteriorated and need replacement, with many past the century mark. But in recent years, L.A.'s elected leaders have been unwilling to hike water rates enough to fix th...More >>
  • Trial exposes CEO's calls, texts to Va. first lady

    Trial exposes CEO's calls, texts to Va. first lady

    Friday, August 1 2014 5:26 PM EDT2014-08-01 21:26:38 GMT
    The key witness in the corruption trial of Virginia's former governor and his wife said his association with the couple was fraught with bad decisions - but an affair with the first lady was not one of them.More >>
    Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's wife exchanged 1,200 text messages and phone calls with the CEO of a dietary supplement company in less than two years, including 52 in one day, according to evidence presented...More >>