Office of the United States Attorney, Ann Birmingham Scheel
District of Arizona
January 20, 2012
BORDER PATROL AGENT AND STATE PRISON GUARD ARRESTED ON DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGES
YUMA, Ariz. – Ivhan Herrera-Chiang, 29, a U.S. Border Patrol agent stationed in Yuma, Ariz., and Michael Lopez-Garcia, 28, a corrections officer stationed at the Arizona State Prison Complex in San Luis, Ariz., were arrested on January 19, 2012, and charged with Conspiracy to Possess Controlled Substances With Intent To Distribute.
“I would like to commend each of the agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, ICE Office of Professional Responsibility, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, whose hard work led to these arrests,” said Ann Birmingham Scheel, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. “In addition, I would like to thank the Border Patrol for its full cooperation in this investigation. This case exemplifies that we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to diligently prosecute those who violate the public’s trust.”
“DHS Office of Inspector General will continue to be committed to working with our law enforcement partners to identify and aggressively investigate all allegations of corruption to protect our borders and the integrity of DHS personnel, programs, and operations,” said Paul Leonard, Special Agent in Charge, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General. “Acts of corruption within the Department of Homeland Security represent a threat to our nation and undermine the honest and hardworking employees who strive to maintain the integrity of the Department. Corruption will not be tolerated and those who choose to break the law will be pursued aggressively.”
Today’s arrests are the culmination of efforts by the FBI’s Southwest Arizona Border Corruption Task Force,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal Jr., Phoenix Division. “When a law enforcement officer taints their badge, it erodes public confidence and threatens national security. The FBI, along with our partners in law enforcement, will continue to combat public corruption at all levels.”
IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Dawn Mertz stated “Public officials hold positions of trust in the eyes of the public. That trust is broken when these officials commit crimes. No public official gets a free pass to commit a crime and their status as a political official will not protect them from federal prosecution. The IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to pool our resources with other agencies to enforce the law and ensure public trust.”
The complaint alleges that, between September 2010 and January 2012, Herrera and Lopez conspired to help a drug trafficking organization (“DTO”) smuggle drugs into the United States. Herrera’s alleged role was to obtain and disclose sensitive information—including sensor maps, combinations to gates located near the U.S/Mexican border, computer records concerning prior drug seizures, and the identity of confidential informants—to which he had access by virtue of his membership in a Border Patrol intelligence unit. Lopez’s alleged role included personally smuggling two pounds of methamphetamine through the Port of Entry, guiding cocaine traffickers around Border Patrol patrols and checkpoints, and personally delivering drugs and intelligence materials (the intelligence materials allegedly obtained by Herrera) to persons he believed to be DTO representatives. In fact, Lopez’s drug buyer was actually an undercover agent.
A conviction for Conspiracy to Possess Controlled Substances With Intent To Distribute carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, a $10 million fine, or both. In determining an actual sentence, the judge assigned to this case will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. The judge, however, will not be bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.
A criminal complaint is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation preceding the arrest was conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, ICE Office of Professional Responsibility, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection-Office of Internal Affairs, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations. The prosecution is being handled by Dominic Lanza, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.
CASE NUMBER: CR: 2:12-mj-01077-JFM
RELEASE NUMBER: 2012-010(Lopez/Herrera)
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For more information on the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/az