This week, a crooked Border Patrol agent gets sent to prison, so does a crooked border town sheriff, three more soldiers plead guilty in a massive Arizona sting, and a Chicago cop gets caught playing weed dealer. Let's get to it:
In San Diego, a former El Centro Border Patrol agent was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison for trying to smuggle 750 pounds of marijuana across the border in his patrol vehicle. Luis Francisco Higareda, 30, was nailed the night of January 4 after someone tipped off federal agents that he was set to pick up pot near the border. As waiting agents watched, another vehicle arrived and one of its occupants transferred 10 duffel bags full of Mexican weed into Higareda's marked Border Patrol vehicle. Agents pulled him over without incident a few minutes later. Higareda pled guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
In Chicago, a city police officer was arrested December 9 on federal charges he conspired to sell 50 pounds of marijuana. Near North District Police Officer Joseph Pecora, 27, had scored the weed from a suburban Bolingbrook man named George Zito in April, but Zito's supplier later turned informant, put on a wire and recorded incriminating conversations with Pecora. With the weed long gone, Pecora could only be charged with conspiracy, not possession. He has been relieved of his police powers, but walked out of jail Monday on a $150,000 recognizance bond.
In Brownsville, Texas, former Cameron County Sheriff Conrado Cantu was sentenced Tuesday to more than 24 years in federal prison for ripping off some drug dealers and tipping off others of impending investigations. Cantu pleaded guilty in July to heading a criminal conspiracy that engaged in extortion, drug smuggling, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering and bribery. Also sentenced this week in the case were former deputy Rumaldo Rodgriguez, who got 14 months, and former deputy Geronimo Garcia, who ran the county jail commissary. Garcia was sentenced to 9 ½ years.
In Tucson, three US soldiers have copped pleas in the federal undercover operation known as Operation Lively Green, where federal agents posing as drug dealers bribed soldiers and law enforcement officers in Arizona to aid in the transport of cocaine by moving it through border-area checkpoints. Thirty-seven other current or former soldiers or law enforcement officers have already pleaded guilty in the case. This week, former Arizona Army National Guard Pvt. Anthony Fimbres, 39; former US Army Sgt. Steven Lawler, 26; and Arizona Army National Guard Sgt. Ray Segala, 52, all pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to enrich themselves by taking bribes from people they believed were drug traffickers. The three defendants admitted using their official uniforms, IDs, and vehicles to get through border checkpoints with loads of cocaine and to transporting more than 100 pounds of cocaine from a desert airstrip to a Phoenix hotel, where they were paid $9,000 by an undercover FBI agent.