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May 18, 2010

BROWNSVILLE WOMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO BRIBERY OF A CBP OFFICER AND ALIEN SMUGGLING

(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) – A Brownsville woman has pleaded guilty to bribing a customs officer and alien smuggling, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Sandra Cecilia Guajardo, 49, was indicted following an investigation by special agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Professional Responsibility (ICE-OPR) after she paid a bribe to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer to allow vehicles with undocumented aliens to pass through the officer’s lane on two separate occasions. Today, she pleaded guilty to two counts of bribery and one count of alien smuggling before United States Magistrate Judge Felix Recio.

Guajardo admitted to having met with a CBP officer to discuss alien smuggling on March 12, 2010. The CBP officer reported this to ICE-OPR agents who initiated an investigation into Guajardo. She further admitted to having met with the officer in April to come to the terms of the agreement and, on April 7, 2010, met with the CBP officer and paid him a $1,000 down payment to let a vehicle with undocumented aliens pass through his lane without inspection. On the morning of April 8, 2010, Guajardo crossed through the officer’s lane, followed by a vehicle with six undocumented aliens. The vehicle was stopped by Brownsville Police Department officers and found to contain four undocumented Mexican nationals and two undocumented El Salvadoran nationals. Guajardo was in a separate vehicle and not arrested at that time.

On April 15, 2010, Guajardo paid the officer the remaining money for the group from the April 8 smuggling event and discussed additional smuggling ventures and paid a $500 down payment for the next group of aliens. The next day, Guajardo coordinated with the drivers of two more vehicles filled with undocumented aliens which were to pass through the officer’s lane. Both vehicles were stopped by Brownsville Police Department officers and Guajardo was arrested later that same day. 

After entering her pleas of guilty before Judge Recio today, Guajardo was allowed to continue on her present bond pending her sentencing hearing before United States District Judge Hilda G. Tagle on Aug. 18, 2010, at 1:30 p.m. 

A conviction for bringing in aliens carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, while bribery carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. 

The case was being investigated by ICE – OPR. Assistant United States Attorney Joseph T. Leonard prosecuted the case. 

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