Skip to main content
Press Release

Former Border Patrol Agent Sentenced to Prison for Trafficking in Fentanyl Precursor and Sea Cucumber

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melanie K. Pierson (619) 546-7976 or Sherri Hobson (619) 961-0287


SAN DIEGO – Former U.S. Border Patrol Agent Cesar Daleo was sentenced in federal court yesterday to 30 months in prison for conspiring to distribute a controlled substance that is used to make deadly fentanyl, and 24 months for conspiring to smuggle a protected species of sea cucumber. The sentences will run concurrently.

In the sea cucumber case, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel found that the defendant paid another individual to smuggle bags of dried sea cucumber (Isostichopus fuscus) into the United States from Mexico on at least 80 occasions between the fall of 2014 and the fall of  2016.  The court also found that the value of the sea cucumber that Daleo helped to smuggle exceeded $250,000.

Isostichopus fuscus is the only species of sea cucumber found in Mexico that is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  In order to legally import fuscus, a CITES certificate issued by the country of origin (in this case, Mexico) must be presented at the time of importation.  Isostichopus fuscus is prized in Asian communities for use in soup, based on it supposed medical properties.

In the drug case, the defendant admitted in his plea agreement that he conspired to distribute a controlled substance, known as 4-anilino-N-phenethyl-4-piperidine (4ANPP),” which is the immediate precursor or the primary ingredient for manufacturing deadly fentanyl.

Daleo was arrested on August 29, 2017, while trying to drive into Mexico with a package that he believed contained 4ANPP (4-anilino-N-phenethyl-4-piperidine), a Schedule II Controlled Substance. According to court records, Daleo had just picked up the package, shipped from China, at a post office box in San Ysidro. He had previously picked up 13 other packages from the same post office box.

Unbeknownst to Daleo, a few weeks earlier on August 11, 2017, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent stationed at Los Angeles International Airport had intercepted a package from China and discovered it contained 4ANPP.  Homeland Security Investigations agents then replaced the 4ANPP with a harmless substance and waited for someone to pick it up at its destination in San Ysidro, California. When Daleo did so, and then headed to Mexico, he was intercepted by law enforcement before crossing the border. As part of his plea, the defendant admitted in court that there was an agreement to distribute 4ANPP and that he joined the agreement knowing its purpose and intending to help accomplish that purpose.

He also admitted that the parcels contained a substance that could be used to manufacture more illegal drugs. One kilogram of precursor 4ANPP, the amount seized on August 11, 2017, is enough manufacture approximately 25 kilograms of fentanyl in a Mexican drug lab.

“This is a fitting sentence for a former law enforcement agent who knew the dangers of drugs like fentanyl, yet did not hesitate to hand them out, for a price,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “Now it is he who will pay a price for distributing a drug that destroys lives, families and communities.”


Cesar Daleo                                         Age: 49                                   Chula Vista, California


Criminal Case No. 18cr2968-GPC

Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 371

Maximum penalty: Five years in prison, $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss caused by the offense; restitution; forfeiture of proceeds generated from the crime

Criminal Case No. 17cr3-41-GPC

Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison, $500,000 fine


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement

Homeland Security Investigations

Customs and Border Protection

U.S. Postal Inspection Service

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Updated May 31, 2019

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: CAS19-0531-Daleo