Bribery Puts Customs Officer Away for 12 Years

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – A customs officer was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for taking “tens of thousands of dollars in bribes” to let people smuggle drugs into the county.
     Former Customs and Border Protection Officer Oscar Osbaldo Ortiz-Martinez also was fined $22,000 at his Wednesday sentencing.
     Ortiz, 33, of El Centro, worked at the Calexico crossings for just two years. A jury in September 2012 deliberated for just three hours before convicting him after a trial that lasted more than a week.
     Ortiz and his crony Victor Manuel Silva Jr. thought they were working for a drug cartel though they were actually dealing with undercover cops, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
     “Ortiz accepted $22,000 in bribes and was arrested on Sept. 23, 2010, when he showed up to collect another $30,000 bribe from the informant. Silva was arrested later that day,” the U.S. attorney said.
     Silva, 33, also is from El Centro.
     According to the U.S. attorney’s statement: “At trial, the government presented audio recordings of Ortiz discussing the smuggling of narcotics through his inspection lane with co-defendant Silva and a confidential informant. In two of those conversations, Ortiz made plans to allow the informant to cross 5-12 kg of cocaine through his lane in exchange for $20,000 and 15 kg of methamphetamine for $30,000.
     “Also during those recorded conversations, Ortiz established code words for the informant to use if the computer randomly required Ortiz to send the informant to secondary inspection, and they agreed these code words would prompt the informant to abandon the vehicle and run back to Mexico. Ortiz also at one point suggested the informant use motorcycles to smuggle narcotics, because they could then cross drugs ‘every day.'”
     Silva pleaded guilty in February 2011 to drug conspiracy and testified against Ortiz.

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