News and Press Releases

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Jan. 6, 2009


(LAREDO, Texas) –  Former United States Border Patrol agent Leonel Morales, 30, of Zapata County, has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for escorting a narcotics load, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.

Morales entered a plea of guilty to committing bribery before United States Magistrate Judge Scott Hacker this afternoon. Morales admitted that while working as a Border Patrol agent between June 2008 and Aug. 28, 2008, he accepted $9,000 in cash to ensure the safe passage of a 20-kilogram load of cocaine through Zapata County, Texas. Morales was indicted in June 2008. During today’s hearing the United States informed the court its evidence at a trial would have included audio and video recordings of Morales planning, negotiating and coordinating the safe passage of the narcotics through Zapata County, as well his receiving the bribe payments.

A bribery conviction carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $250,000 or not more than three times the monetary equivalent of the bribe, whichever is greater. Sentencing is scheduled before United States District Judge Micaela Alvarez in Laredo on March 18, 2009, at 2:00 p.m. Morales has been and will remain in federal custody without bond pending sentencing. Morales’ employment by the United States Border Patrol was terminated following his arrest.  

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by agents of 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 Drug Enforcement Administration and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Wright of the Public Corruption Section.


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