SAN DIEGO, CA (Borderland Beat) – In the latest in yet another San Diego ICE/CBP/HSI scandal, Jose Luis Cota has been sentenced to 5 years imprison, after a guilty plea earlier this year, where he admitted to three counts of bringing in immigrants for financial gain, and one count of bribery to a public official. Cota was charged last year in a smuggling scheme where he received cash payments and sexual favors for facilitating the smuggling of immigrants across the San Ysidro border, where he worked for years.
The immigrants were driven by a husband and wife team, Gilberto Aguilar-Martinez, 32, and his wife Miriam Juarez-Herrera, who scouted and trafficked the immigrants, who were charged up to 15,000 a piece. The conspiracy unraveled last fall, and is alleged to have been ongoing for a year at least. Juarez-Herrera admitted to providing sexual favors to Cota, with whom she had some form of bizarre relationship, referring to him as a “pendejo” according to the criminal complaint.
The sordid, low level conspiracy, involving the trafficking of humans, and several betrayals of human decency, as well as sworn durty is the latest in a myriad of federal and state prosecutions of former agents of US Customs and Border Protection, ICE, and Homeland Security Investigations. In some ways it’s easy to understand. These agencies were formed after 9/11, under George W. Bush’s presidency, the nation was gripped by fears of terrorists pouring in through the southwest border.
The agencies were filled with people who were under vetted, and have led to corruption throughout the southwest, including San Diego, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Cota, a 15 year veteran, fits perfectly in this analysis. Blue collar men who sold themselves for the trinkets of a slightly upper middle class is what lies behind many of the cases, Cota’s included.
A weekend in Vegas, a new truck, gaudy jewels and plastic surgery for their aging wifes and younger girlfriends, Jet-Ski’s and remodels to their mid level planned community homes in Chula Vista. The comforts of a middle class existence, a few beers after work with the guys, customized truck. Cheap people who sold themselves cheaper. Cota forfeited two vehicles, and 63,000 in cash derived from the scheme.
Lorne “Hammer” Jones, an officer since 1994 was sentenced to 7.5 years in 2014, after being convicted at trial. Jones, facilitated the importation of large marijuana loads from Arellano-Felix cells, driven through in tractor trailers. Jones spent much of the alleged 500,000 he received over the years to engage in the same lifestyle detailed above. Fishing boats and Chargers season tickets, trips to Las Vegas, heavy gambling. For his part, Jones says he was unfairly prosecuted, and prosectors used criminal informants to build their case. He was released last year, after serving about half of his sentence, which was slashed by a judge. In his 50, his former life has been wiped away.
A criminal complaint filed late last year detailed the FBI’s arrest of Noe Lopez, a ten year veteran of the CBP, again, falling in the time frame above. An informant working with the FBI’s Border Corruption task force contacted Lopez, and Lopez agreed, and volunteered to assist in bringing kilos of cocaine and meth across the border. His price was 500 for once kilo of meth, 1,000 per kilo of cocaine.
Backpacks would be left at pre arranged locations along Lopez’s route, he would take the backpacks and drop them off to the informant. Lopez, in furtherance of the conspiracy purchased bags at Wal-Mart, and retrieved a backpack the next day, which he believed to contain 6 kilos of meth, for which he was to be paid 500 per kilo. The next run, was 7 kilos, and he was arrested as he made the exchange. His case is pending, though a guilty plea is no doubt imminent.
The case of Tyrone Cedric Duren, and his wife, Jennifer Lynn Duren, currently pending is a fascinating look inside corruption, detailed in the criminals complaint filed against Duren, and subsequent indictment. Duren, using his position on the Bulk Cash Smuggling Task Force, with multiple state and federal agencies involved, stole 400,000 in drug proceeds from two couriers near the San Ysidro border.