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U.S. border officer gets 20 years for corruption, smuggling drugs

Customs agent corruption A former U.S. Customs employee is headed to federal prison for 20 years after being convicted of corruption and smuggling charges in El Paso, Texas. Martha Alicia Garnica, 43, a former Customs and Border Protection officer, conspired to smuggle marijuana and undocumented migrants into the United States and bribed or attempted to bribe fellow officers, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said in a statement.

Garnica had pleaded guilty to the charges in May and was sentenced Aug. 26 by a federal judge. 

These sorts of cases are more common than readers might think. U.S. Homeland Security officials told a Senate panel in March that Mexican drug trafficking groups aggressively attempt to recruit border agents to allow narcotics and human smuggling through ports of entry. The Associated Press tallied 80 corruption-related convictions among enforcement officials along the U.S.-Mexico border since 2007, and 129 arrests of agents on corruption-related charges in all ports since 2003.

Polygraph tests are conducted on only 1 in 10 applicants to border enforcement jobs, and 60% of applicants who undergo a lie detector test are deemed unsuitable to be hired, a Department of Homeland Security official said in Washington. In other words, the AP said, many brought in during the agency's recent hiring boom "could have joined with corruption already in mind."

In June, for example, a federal judge in New Mexico sent another former border agent to prison for smuggling cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. between 2006 and 2008. The agent, Eric Macias, was hired in 2005.

Agents implicated in the smuggling of guns south into Mexico is also an issue the U.S. is attempting to tackle. An ex-FBI agent was sentenced last week to two years in federal prison for buying and selling more than 200 firearms without a license, among other charges.

— Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Former U.S. border agent Martha Alicia Garnica in custody. Credit: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Comments () | Archives (18)

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How long have Americans been using cocaine? Since the 19th Century since it was sold in the drug stores on main street. How long have Americans been smoking marijuana? Well, in most cultures around the world for millenia as medicinal, ritual and recreational use. How long have Americans been using meth, crack, heroin and designer "prescription" pills? Do you all really think this is NEW? Or did all these drugs just appear at your cocktail parties with no provedence of where they came? How did they get into your pipes, bongs, and needles-out of heaven or did they get across the borders with the help of corrupt officials at ALL ENTRY PORTS? Learn history folks and then you can see that whether it´s the 20´s,30´s,60´s, 80´s or the 21 century, illegal activity in drugs, slaves, guns or contraband it takes two sides to make it all happen-and they don´t all have names that end in vowels-ha! If anyone is reading what La Barbie is saying, he admits that all shipments of guns and drugs are coming across both sides of the border in TRAILERS. Um, how do semis come into Mexico with tons of AK-47´s and tons of drugs in semis come into the US? Just corrupt Mexicans? And for those of you who seem to see a latin name and then assume that that is the problem, then you don´t have a clue as to Southwest History, just racist dribble.

I think Obama should get some prison time for lying on his "application" wiith so many promisses....basically applying for the most important job in modern history and then lying to the American people. Basically, the officers / agents deserve what they have coming. How about their big boss? Will he pardon them at the end of his game?

This former U.S. Border patrol officer is probably asking herself "Was it all worth it?"

The answer "Me thinks not."

I think it is so weird how no one has nothing to say. But when they talk about the Mexican government being corrupted people are so ready to criticize. PATHETIC no matter what side of the border it happens.

wow, and i thought the tv show, Weeds, was all ridiculous hoopla...

this isnt a surprise!!

Why is this being treated like news? Hasn't this same old boring story been running since Nixon declared his War on Drugs?

This reminds me of Miami Vice. That was a TV show that was canceled in the 80s.

They had good enough sense to cancel that show, because seeing the same thing happen over and over again for the next 30 years would have been too boring for anyone to stand.

It's not like any of this makes any kind of difference. If it really made a difference, it would have made a difference 30 years ago and Miami Vice would have ended with the end of drugs in America.

I'm angry that Americans have been asked to give up so many civil liberties and so much privacy for a war that looks like it's never ever ever going to end.

Boring boring boring.

Like I said, why is this being treated as news, when it's not new, and none of it has ever made any difference whatsoever.

We all are humans after all and would be fragile at the end if temptation is too strong. The only difference would make is the motivation one can find in being honest and in maintaining high moral standards.

This does not only happen in issues related to drugs but also in the conventional business world. How can we prevent employees from falling into that temptation?

Isn't imported Mexican corruption one of the benefits of illegal immigration?

Ha, and undocumented immigrants shoulder all of the blame. Our own citizens, our own law enforcement, can't even be trusted. They're helping to perpetuate the cycle of drugs and violence!

It's time we stop scapegoating immigrants for all of our country's woes. It's time we stop treating them with so much hate and contempt and instead see them for the people they are. We just need a better system to ensure legal immigration.

Please change your headline to read "Customs Agent" not Border officer. Just for future reference, Border Patrol Agents wear green and work around the ports of entry, and Customs Agents wear blue and work in the ports of entry.

The scariest thing about this article is the faces of the cops being blurred out. Will all police have to wear storm trooper masks in future to avoid being targeted by the drug smugglers?

I notice the start of a "trend" by these hispanic "officers"....Just like south of the border, CORRUPT!

I'd like to know how many of these corrupt agents have names that end in vowels. There's a reason the US military wasn't run by a Japanese guy during WWII.

That is GREAT news ! ! ! !

And she will be doing 20 years, with no parole, since she is doing Federal time,
as the way it should be .

President Calderon just fired more than three thousand corrupt police from Mexico's law enforcement, on this side of the border there is a tendency to look the other way, only one in ten has to go through the polygraph???? amazing, and sixty percent of the people taking the polygraph fail???? you don't have to be Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawkins to realize that more than half of the people hired have questionable credentials, how detrimental.

Corruption within the ranks of the Mexican military and political establishment and now we have corrupt border agents, and local political leaders (Bell).

It's time to decriminalize, maybe even legalize drugs. Package stores run by the state, like they have in Pennsylvania, with the profits earmarked for education and drug treatment. Problem solved.


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About the Reporters
Ken Ellingwood
Daniel Hernandez
Efrain Hernandez Jr.
Chris Kraul
Richard Marosi
Tracy Wilkinson