TUCSON (CN) - A former Border Patrol agent claims the FBI entrapped and indicted him on bogus charges of money laundering and bribery to try to rescue their undercover operation at a Southern Arizona port of entry, ruining his life and career.
Seeking $5.5 million in damages, Lauro Tobias and his wife sued the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona, the Office of Inspector General, the Department of Homeland Security, three federal agents and an assistant U.S. Attorney, among others, in Federal Court.
Lauro Tobias had worked at the Lukeville Port of Entry for about 10 years when the FBI began an undercover operation there in October 2010, codenamed "Dirty Blue."
Lukeville is a tiny, unincorporated village in extreme southwestern Arizona, opposite Sonoyta, Mexico. It is best known to U.S. tourists as the gateway to Puerto Peñasco, or Rocky Point, a popular beach camping ground in Sonora, on the Gulf of California.
The operation placed defendant Agent Adam Hoffman undercover at the port of entry as a Customs and Border Protection firearms instructor and temporary supervisor, according to the March 7 complaint.
At some point the investigation shifted focus and concentrated on Tobias.
"Special Agent Adam Hoffman created a scenario which Plaintiff Lauro Tobias became entwined in a special friendship with defendant Hoffman," the complaint states. "Defendant Hoffman, directed, conducted and produced a series of manipulated activities to gain the trust of plaintiff Lauro Tobias. When defendant Hoffman gained plaintiff Tobias' trust, defendant Hoffman introduced plaintiff Tobias to a purported wealthy family friend, defendant Jerry Gonzales, an employee and/or agent of the federal government, for the sole purpose of befriending and developing a business relationship in providing security for the alleged business ventures of defendant Jerry Gonzales, including transportation of money within the United States."
According to court documents in Tobias' dismissed criminal case, Tobias and the "purported wealthy family friend" became fast friends based on "enticements of entertainment" and "trips to Miami, San Francisco and Las Vegas."
Tobias says the "rich family friend" hired him to provide security and carry cash for what he believed was a legitimate business deal. In his motion to dismiss for outrageous governmental conduct, he says the undercover agents assured him that "the activities they had gotten Mr. Tobias involved with were legal."
In August 2012, while working for the purported businessman, Tobias took $100,000 in cash from Las Vegas to Phoenix. He says the undercover agents told him that the money was legitimate.
But in March 2013, defendant James Lacey, then an assistant U.S. attorney in Arizona, called Tobias into his office and told him "'to help himself' by coming clean about all of the illegal activities that were occurring at the Lukeville Port of Entry," Tobias said in his motion to dismiss.
When Tobias told the FBI he didn't know anything about corruption at Lukeville, he was arrested and then indicted on charges of money laundering, bribery and fraud with a computer.