LOS ANGELES – A special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has been found guilty of four federal offenses related to assistance he provided to a Mexican national with a criminal record to re-enter the United States.
Felix Cisneros Jr., 44, of Murrieta, an 11-year veteran of ICE who is now on indefinite suspension from the agency, was found guilty late Monday afternoon following a four-day trial in United States District Court.
The jury found Cisneros guilty of four felony counts: conspiracy to aid and assist the entry of an alien convicted of an aggravated felony into the United States, acting as agent of another person in a matter affecting the government, falsification of records in a federal investigation, and making false statements.
According to court documents and the evidence presented to the jury, Cisneros agreed to help a friend’s business associate re-enter the United States after traveling to Mexico City in September 2013. The business associate, Santiago Garcia-Gutierrez, was a lawful permanent resident of the United States, but because of prior criminal convictions and an outstanding warrant for his arrest, he was barred from being legally admitted into the United States upon his return. United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had seized Garcia’s Mexican passport and his “Green Card” when he attempted to enter the United States two months earlier, but he was paroled in –meaning he was temporarily allowed into the United States – pending the resolution of his criminal case.
As part of the conspiracy, Cisneros persuaded CBP officers to return Garcia’s passport, ensured that Garcia would be allowed to re-enter the United States after the September 2013 trip, and urged CBP to extend Garcia’s parole that allowed him to remain in the United States pending resolution of his immigration status. Cisneros provided assistance to Garcia knowing about his prior convictions.
As part of the conspiracy, Cisneros had queried a law enforcement database, which provided him information about Garcia’s prior convictions, as well as information that Garcia was suspected of participating in criminal activities.
The falsification of records and the false statements charges relate to Cisneros failing to disclose that he had a longstanding relationship with Garcia during a regular background investigation being conducted as part of his employment as an ICE agent.
Cisneros is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder on July 30, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
The jury that convicted Cisneros also acquitted him of two counts of obstruction of justice.
The case against Cisneros is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General; and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Patricia A. Donahue and Sheila Nagaraj of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.