(CN) — A border patrolman pleaded guilty in San Diego Thursday to taking $10,000 in bribes to smuggle what he thought was cocaine and methamphetamine into the United States in a Border Patrol vehicle.
Noe Lopez, 37, of Chula Vista, faces up to life in prison and a $10 million fine for two counts of attempted distribution of meth and cocaine.
Lopez bought three backpacks and gave them to an undercover agent or agents, who filled them with substances resembling the drugs and dumped them on the north side of the border.
“Lopez drove to the location in his Border Patrol vehicle and retrieved the backpack,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “He returned to the Border Patrol Station and placed the backpack in his personal vehicle. At the conclusion of his Border Patrol work shift, Lopez met the source at a parking lot in Chula Vista, where Lopez gave the source the backpack containing what Lopez believed to be six pounds of methamphetamine.”
That was on Dec. 6, 2016, according to the acting U.S. attorney. On Dec. 7, Lopez was paid $3,000 for this. On Dec. 8 he did it again, this time believing it was 7 kilos of cocaine. On Dec. 9 he was paid $7,000.
He will be sentenced on Sept. 8.
The Border Patrol is among the most corrupt U.S. law enforcement agencies. A 2016 report in the Texas Tribune found at least 140 agents had been charged with corruption in the previous 12 years, 134 of whom were convicted or pleaded guilty.
The General Accountability Office reported in 2012 that “arrests of CBP employees for corruption-related activities since fiscal years 2005 account for less than 1 percent of CBP’s entire workforce per fiscal year.”
But Customs and Border Protection is the largest law-enforcement outfit in the United States, with more than 44,000 agents. A corruption rate of just 0.5 percent a year would be 220 corrupt agents a year.