Border Patrol Agent Sentenced to Five Years for Human Smuggling

SAN DIEGO (CN) – A former Border Patrol agent faces five years in prison for accepting cash and sexual favors to help smugglers bring undocumented immigrants into the United States.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller lambasted Jose Luis Cota, 51, at his sentencing hearing on Monday for letting a husband-wife smuggling team bring undocumented immigrants through his inspection lane.

“It feeds the popular narrative that there is corruption in government at some levels,” Miller said when imposing Cota’s sentence. “There is a spot of rot in government. When this happens, it affects us all.”

In addition to his five-year prison sentence, Cota was ordered to forfeit two vehicles used in the smuggling operation and more than $63,000 in cash he received in bribes.

After 15 years with the Border Patrol, he resigned Jan. 10.

Cota conspired with Miriam Juarez-Herrera and Gilberto Aguilar-Martinez, married Mexican citizens, from at least Nov. 2015 through Sep. 2016 to smuggle high-paying immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Some of the undocumented immigrants – who Juarez-Herrera recruited in Mexico – paid as much as $15,000 per person. Cota smuggled them through his primary vehicle lane at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Juarez-Herrera also bribed Cota with cash and sexual favors in exchange for letting the immigrants she smuggled pass through Cota’s vehicle inspection lane. At least 10 immigrants made their way into the U.S. illegally in this way, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The three arrests last September stemmed from an investigation by the Border Corruption Task Force, which includes agents from the FBI and Customs and Border Protection.

Aguilar-Martinez was also sentenced Monday to three years in prison. He was ordered to forfeit two vehicles and $2,425.69 in cash seized when he was arrested. He will be deported to Mexico after he completes his sentence.

Cota was ordered to surrender himself to his designated prison by June 14, 2017 at 5 p.m.

Juarez-Herrera’s sentencing was pushed back to June 19.

The FBI leads 22 border corruption task forces and working groups across the country composed of 39 local, state and federal agencies, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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