WASHINGTON – A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, his girlfriend and two of their associates pleaded guilty today in federal court for their participation in multi-year bribery and alien smuggling activities along the U.S./Mexico border, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Former CBP Officer Juan Carlos Guerrero, 39, of Mission, Texas, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in the Southern District of Texas to one count of substantive bribery, one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one count of alien smuggling conspiracy. Guerrero’s girlfriend Claudia Flores, 34, of Mission; Maribel Rivera, 43, of Mission; and Rodolfo Caballero Rojas, 40, of Oklahoma City, each pleaded guilty today before Judge Hanen to separate informations charging each of them with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and alien smuggling.
The defendants were indicted on Oct. 5, 2012, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville. They each were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, one count of conspiracy to smuggle aliens for financial gain and various substantive counts of bribery and alien smuggling.
According to court documents, between approximately October 2008 and approximately January 2011, Guerrero worked the midnight shift at the Hidalgo Port of Entry (Hidalgo POE), Pharr Port of Entry (Pharr POE) and the Anzalduas Port of Entry (Anzalduas POE), where, among other things, he was responsible for vehicle inspections of northbound traffic traveling from Mexico to the United States.
According to court documents, between approximately January 2009 and approximately May 2011, Guerrero and Flores organized a bribery and alien smuggling operation, whereby Guerrero, Flores, Rivera, Rojas, Guerrero’s nephew Jose Cantu and other co-conspirators arranged for undocumented aliens (UDAs) from Mexico to be smuggled into the United States through Guerrero’s inspection lanes at the Hidalgo POE, Pharr POE and Anzalduas POE, in exchange for bribe payments ranging from $500 to $3,000 per UDA. Guerrero admitted that he organized and directed a total of at least approximately 80 to 150 different smuggling events, in which he knowingly permitted approximately 80 to 165 UDAs to gain illegal entry into the United States.
According to court documents, Flores admitted that she helped Guerrero organize and direct a total of at least approximately 50 to 75 of the illegal crossings, in which approximately 50 to 100 UDAs gained illegal entry into the United States. Rivera admitted that she assisted Guerrero and Flores by identifying and soliciting UDAs, communicating smuggling prices and details of the illegal crossings to UDAs, and collecting bribe payments from the UDAs on Guerrero and Flores’s behalf. Rojas admitted, among other things, that he assisted Guerrero by personally driving UDAs through Guerrero’s inspection lane at the Anzalduas POE and that he paid Guerrero a bribe of approximately $1,500 as payment for Guerrero’s decision to permit a UDA to pass illegally through his inspection lane.
As part of his plea agreement, Guerrero resigned today from CBP.
On July 24, 2012, Guerrero’s nephew Jose Cantu pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas, to conspiracy to commit bribery and alien smuggling and a separate charge of conspiracy to import marijuana and cocaine.
The charge of bribery carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss. The charge of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss. The charge of conspiracy to commit alien smuggling for private financial gain carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss. Sentencing for Guerrero, Flores, Rivera, Rojas and Cantu is scheduled for March 18, 2013
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward J. Loya Jr. and J.P. Cooney of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by agents from the FBI’s South Texas Border Corruption Task Force, which includes agents from the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Professional Responsibility, CBP Office of Internal Affairs, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, CBP U.S. Border Patrol and the Texas Rangers Division.