KOLD News 13 StaffFBI Sting Nets Military, Law Enforcement, Border enforcersFri May 13, 2005 03:52220.127.116.11
FBI Nabs Troops, Officers in Drug Sting
By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN, Associated Press Writer
TUCSON, Ariz. - Pretending to be cocaine traffickers,
undercover FBI agents in Arizona snared 16 current and
former law enforcement officers and U.S. soldiers who
accepted more than $222,000 in bribes to help move the
drugs past checkpoints, the government said Thursday.
Those charged include a former Immigration and
Naturalization Service inspector, a former Army
sergeant, a former federal prison guard, seven members
of the Arizona Army National Guard, five members of
the Arizona Department of Corrections and a police
officer, officials said.
All 16 agreed to plead guilty to being part of a
bribery and corruption conspiracy and were scheduled
to enter pleas Thursday in federal court, said Noel
Hillman, a Justice Department official.
Each faced a single conspiracy count carrying a
maximum prison term of five years and a $250,000 fine,
though all could be entitled to probation, Hillman
The defendants in the nearly 3 1/2-year-long sting
were not arrested and agreed to cooperate with an
investigation expected to bring more arrests and
involve people from additional agencies, said Hillman
and FBI Agent Jana D. Monroe, who is in charge of the
bureau's operations in Arizona.
Hillman said the defendants drove cocaine shipments
past checkpoints manned by the government while they
wore official uniforms, carried identification and
used official vehicles.
"Many individuals charged were sworn personnel having
the task of protecting society and securing America's
borders," Monroe said. "The importance of these tasks
cannot be overstated and we cannot tolerate, nor can
the American people afford, this type of corruption."
Hillman and Monroe said the FBI was tipped about an
individual and set up the fake trafficking
organization in December 2001. Military and police
personnel then were lured with money to help
distribute the cocaine or allow it to pass through
checkpoints they were guarding, Hillman said.
Authorities engaged in an elaborate effort to
determine that the defendants were predisposed to
taking bribes, he said.
One defendant, John M. Castillo, 30, was on duty as an
INS inspector at a border checkpoint in Nogales in
April 2002 when he twice allowed a truck he believed
was carrying at least 88 pounds of cocaine to enter
the country without being inspected, Hillman said.
Castillo later sold INS documents to an undercover FBI
agent that fraudulently provided for entry of
undocumented immigrants into the United States, he
In another instance in 2002, several of those charged
met an aircraft flown by undercover FBI agents that
was carrying 132 pounds of cocaine at a remote desert
airstrip, he added.
In full uniform, they supervised the loading of the
cocaine into two military Humvees assigned to the
National Guard and another government vehicle, then
drove to a resort hotel in Phoenix - where another
undercover agent posing as a trafficker paid them in
cash, Hillman said.
The FBI used real cocaine seized in other operations,
the officials said. The 16 suspects transported more
than 1,230 pounds of cocaine, the officials said.
The cocaine, with a street value of nearly $18.5
million, never ultimately left FBI possession,
Sting snares 16 with military, law enforcement ties
Houston Chronicle, TX - 1 hour ago
... All 16 have agreed to plead guilty to being part of a bribery and extortion conspiracy, the result of the nearly 3 1/2 -year FBI sting, acting assistant ...
FBI Sting Nets Military, Law Enforcement ABC News
Border enforcers nabbed in FBI sting Winston-Salem Journal
all 225 related »
Drug-Smuggling Conspiracy Among US Law Enforcement Is Disclosed
Los Angeles Times, CA - 2 hours ago
By Ralph Vartabedian, Times Staff Writer. A brazen conspiracy among US law enforcement officers and soldiers to smuggle cocaine from ..
Watch for Continuing Coverage on KOLD News 13
FBI Sting in Southern Arizona
May 13, 2005, 12:17 AM
KOLD News 13 Staff
Sixteen current and former U.S. soldiers and law enforcement officers have agreed to plead guilty to participating in a widespread bribery and extortion conspiracy. Five airmen stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base are also implicated and will be handled by military courts.
The criminal charges against the defendants arise from Operation Lively Green, an FBI undercover corruption investigation that began in December 2001.
In documents filed today in Tucson, the sixteen defendants charged in federal court agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to enrich themselves by obtaining cash bribes from persons they believed to be narcotics traffickers. Those individuals were actually Special Agents from the FBI, and agents say the defendants used their official positions to assist, protect and participate in the activities of what they believed was an illegal narcotics trafficking organization engaged in the business of transporting and distributing cocaine from Arizona to other locations in the southwestern United States.
In order to protect the shipments of cocaine, the defendants wore their official uniforms and carried their official forms of identification, used official vehicles, and used their color of authority, where necessary, to prevent police stops, searches, and seizures of the narcotics as they drove the cocaine shipments on highways that passed through checkpoints manned by the U.S. Border Patrol, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and Nevada law enforcement officers. Many of the defendants also accepted additional cash bribes in return for recruiting other public officials they believed to be corrupt to further facilitate the activities of the fictitious narcotics trafficking organization.
According to court documents, all of the defendants escorted at least two shipments of cocaine from locations such as Nogales, Arizona and Tucson, Arizona to destinations which included Phoenix and Las Vegas, Nevada. The defendants pleading guilty today transported a total of over 560 kilograms of cocaine and accepted over $222,000 in cash bribes as payment for their illegal activities.
In one instance, on Aug. 22, 2002, several of the defendants drove three official government vehicles, including two military Humvees assigned to the Arizona Army National Guard (AANG), to a clandestine desert airstrip near Benson, Arizona, where they met with a twin-engine King Air aircraft flown by undercover agents of the FBI. Those defendants, while in full uniform, supervised the unloading of approximately 60 kilograms of cocaine from the King Air into their vehicles. They then drove the cocaine to a resort hotel in Phoenix where they were met by another undercover agent of the FBI, posing as a high-echelon narcotics trafficker, who immediately paid them off in cash.
In another instance, on April 12, 2002, defendant John M. Castillo, 30, while on duty as an inspector for the INS at the Mariposa Port of Entry located on the U.S. border at Nogales, Arizona, twice waved a truck he believed to be carrying at least 40 kilograms of cocaine through the border without being inspected. On or about Aug. 1, 2002, Castillo also sold an undercover FBI agent INS documents which fraudulently provided for the entry of undocumented aliens into the United States.
In addition to Castillo, the defendants who have agreed to plead guilty are:
* Robert L. Bakerx, 43, a Sergeant in the Arizona Air National Guard;
* David M. Bustamante, 35, formerly a corrections officer with the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC);
* Joel P. Bustamante, 33, formerly a corrections officer with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons;
* Jorge A. Calzadillas, 22, a private first class in the AANG;
* Demian F. Castillo, 33, a specialist first class with the AANG;
* Mark A. Fillman, 55, formerly a specialist first class with the AANG;
* Jimmy L. Ford, Jr., 29, formerly a corrections officer with the ADOC;
* Guillermo German, 36, formerly a corrections officer with the ADOC;
* Angel S. Hernandez, 31, formerly a sergeant in the United States Army;
* Moises Hernandez, 21, a Private in the AANG;
* Leslie B. Hidalgo, 24, a Private First Class in the AANG;
* John F. Manje, 36, formerly a sergeant in the AANG and formerly a corrections officer with the ADOC;
* Gladys C. Sanchez, 24, formerly a corrections officer with the ADOC;
* Angel M. Soto, 41, formerly a corrections officer with the ADOC;
* Phillip Varona, 22, formerly an officer with the Nogales, Arizona Police Department.
The Davis-Monthan Airmen charged in the sting:
* Staff Sgt. Vincent U. Kerley, 355 Aerospace Medicine Squadrom
* Senior Airman Jareese V. Jones, 355 Security Forces
* Tech. Sgt. Michael J. Dahl, 12th Air Force
* Senior Airman Manuela D.C. Scott, 355 Mission Support Squadron
* Airman First Class Adrian R. Watson, 355 Logistics Readiness Squadron
"Now more than ever, it is critically important that those on the front lines of our nation's borders remain uncorrupted," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richter. "A corrupted border creates a grave threat to the national security of this country. We will continue to work to ensure that those employed to protect our homeland do not sell their offices and badges to the highest bidder."
"The actions of those charged in this investigation should not reflect upon the integrity of the agencies that once employed them, nor should it be a reflection upon the honorable men and women who continue to serve within their ranks," said Special Agent-in-Charge Monroe. "We also want to commend these agencies for their partnership as they remained focus on their mission to serve and protect the American public."
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each defendant has agreed to cooperate in this ongoing investigation.
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