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U.S. border officer accused of accepting bribes to allow illegal immigrants to cross border

September 30, 2010 |  6:13 pm

An inspector for U.S. Customs and Border Protection was arrested on corruption conspiracy charges  Thursday, accused of accepting bribes in exchange for allowing vehicles filled with illegal immigrants and marijuana to pass through his inspection lanes at the Otay Mesa and San Ysidro border crossings, authorities said.

Lorne “Hammer” Jones, a 17-year veteran, received up to $20,000 for each vanload of illegal immigrants that passed through his lane without inspection, according to the criminal complaint unsealed Thursday. The number of loads was unspecified. Jones allegedly carried out the scheme from 2000 to 2009.

The investigation was built on the testimony of several witnesses who said Jones would alert smugglers of his lane assignments ahead of time so they knew where to cross. One witness allegedly made eight to 10 payments of about $10,000 each to Jones.

Jones was arrested Thursday while on duty at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. The case is being handled by the FBI-led Border Corruption Task Force, based in San Diego, authorities said. 

It comes one week after another California inspector was charged with conspiring to smuggle cocaine and methamphetamine through his inspection lane at Calexico, in Imperial County.

Both cases mark the latest examples of alleged corruption along the U.S.-Mexico border, where federal authorities are concerned that Mexican smuggling groups are increasingly trying to infiltrate the ranks of federal agents through bribery.

-- Richard Marosi in San Diego