Border Patrol agent had underground room to hide illegal immigrants and drugs, prosecutors allege
Authorities searching the home of a U.S. Border Patrol agent earlier this week found an underground room that they believe was built to hide drugs and illegal immigrants, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday at a court hearing in San Diego.
The agent, Marcos Gerardo Manzano Jr., 26, was arrested earlier this week and charged with harboring illegal immigrants at his home, among them his father, a twice-deported illegal immigrant with a criminal record.
The discovery of the secret room, along with the large law enforcement presence during the search -– an FBI SWAT team led the raiding party -- suggest that the investigation is more expansive and that the four-year veteran of the agency could face additional charges.
Authorities found the hidden room beneath a concrete slab in the backyard patio, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Tara McGrath. A search of the room turned up an illegal immigrant hiding under a table, McGrath said. Agents also found 61 grams of methamphetamine, along with drug paraphernalia and narcotics packaging materials in the home, she added.
Manzano Jr., who was arrested Monday night at the Imperial Beach Border Patrol station, travels regularly to Mexico to visit his girlfriend and family members, said McGrath, who urged the judge to bar any foreign travel if he posts bond, which was set at $75,000.
The agent’s father, Marcos Gerardo Manzano Sr., 46, had allegedly lived at his son’s home in the border community of San Ysidro since September 2009. He had been deported in 2008 after being convicted of possession of marijuana for sale. Manzano Jr. is also charged with lying to a federal investigator for allegedly stating that he didn’t know of his father’s whereabouts.
Manzano Sr. was not found at the home and remains at large.
-- Richard Marosi in San Diego