April 1, 2009
FORMER BORDER PATROL AGENT CONVICTED OF BRIBERY SENTENCED
(LAREDO, Texas) – Former Border Patrol agent Leonel Morales, 30, of Zapata County, has been sentenced to prison for bribery, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Morales accepted $9,000 in exchange for using his position as a federal officer to ensure the safe passage of a 20-kilogram load of cocaine through Zapata County, Texas, during the summer of 2008. Morales was sentenced by United States District Judge Michaela Alvarez this afternoon to 168 months in federal prison without parole, fined $11,000 and ordered to serve a three-year-term of supervised release.
The investigation leading to the charges against Morales included audio and video recordings of Morales as he planned, negotiated and coordinated the safe passage of the narcotics and the bribe payments. Morales pleaded guilty to the federal felony charge in January 2009 before United States Magistrate Judge Scott Hacker. During today’s sentencing hearing, the following facts were considered and contributed to court’s finding that Morales had abused the public trust and ultimately resulted in the sentence she handed down: Morales’ willingness to assist in ensuring the safe passage of the narcotics load, providing the cooperating witness with information about the best places to unload the narcotics, telling the cooperating witness how to avoid the sensors, drawing a map of the best avenues for the narcotics load to proceed through Zapata County, bragging about his ability to get other Border Patrol agents out of the area and his willingness to assist in future narcotics loads.
Morales has been remanded to the custody of the United States Marshals Service pending his transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prison facility where he will serve out his prison sentence.
This case was investigated by agents with the Laredo and McAllen Offices of the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, U.S. Border Patrol and the DEA, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Wright of the Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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