Federal agent guilty of aiding drug smuggling
McALLEN, Texas – A Border Patrol (BP) agent has pleaded guilty to attempting to aid and abet smuggling cocaine through a BP checkpoint, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Oberlin Cortez Pena Jr., 22, La Joya, pleaded guilty today.
As part of his plea, Pena admitted that on two separate occasions, he helped smuggle over five kilograms of cocaine through the Falfurrias checkpoint. Specifically, he used his knowledge as a BP agent and directed loads through particular checkpoint lanes, further acting as a scout and providing information about the inspection lanes and which one to use. Pena also gave detailed instructions on how to conceal the drugs and tactics to employ in order to distract the canine unit at the checkpoint.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane accepted the plea and set sentencing for March 1, 2022. At that time, Pena faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison as well as a possible $10 million maximum fine.
Four others individuals have been convicted as part of the investigation. Edwin Alejandro Castillo, 23, Sullivan City; Kristian Nicole West, 32; Corpus Christi, and Jose Luis Duran, 25, and Herbey Jose Solis III, 28, both of Mission, all pleaded guilty to alien smuggling. Castillo also admitted to bribery, while Duran entered an additional plea to conspiracy to commit bribery.
Pena was permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing.
The Department of Homeland Security - Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation with assistance from Customs and Border Protection - Office of Professional Responsibility and BP. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jongwoo Chung and John Pearson are prosecuting the case.