ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) — A former Customs and Border Protection officer has pleaded guilty to lying to law enforcement about sending “highly sensitive information” from government databases to people living overseas, federal prosecutors said.
Jesus Muchacho, 39, of Temple Hills, Maryland, faces up to five years in prison for lying to investigators about sending information from sensitive law enforcement databases to his personal email account and eventually to “foreign associates,” according to the statement of facts attached to his Wednesday guilty plea.
Muchacho, who held a top secret security clearance for work at the National Targeting Center Cargo, also admitted looking up information about friends and relatives in law enforcement databases. A naturalized citizen from Venezuela, Muchacho falsely said on his background check that he did not hold dual citizenship with another country, according to the statement of facts.
The National Targeting Center Cargo, in Herndon, Virginia screens shipments and people coming into the United States and shares information with law enforcement for national security reasons. Muchacho was assigned to the program in 2013 as an officer and program manager.
The false statements came after law enforcement stopped Muchacho at Dulles International Airport just outside of Washington, D.C., on Nov. 29, 2016 on his way back from a trip to Venezuela. Muchacho told the officers that he had an expired Venezuelan passport at home, but later changed his story and said his passport had been stolen when he arrived in South America, according to the statement of facts.
That led to another interview on Dec. 1, when Muchacho admitted mishandling sensitive information, using databases to check for information about his friends and relatives and sending some of what he found to people he knew.
The maximum sentence for making false statements to law enforcement officers is 5 years, plus a $250,000 fine and 3 years of supervised release. The government said in the plea agreement he could receive a lesser sentence for saving it the trouble of preparing for trial.
“The United States and the defendant agree that the defendant has assisted the government in the investigation and prosecution of the defendant’s own misconduct by timely notifying authorities of the defendant’s intention to enter a plea of guilty, thereby permitting the government to avoid preparing for the trial and permitting the government and the court to allocate their resources efficiently,” the plea agreement states.