Two brothers and Border Patrol agents are sentenced for smuggling immigrants into the U.S.
A federal judge on Friday sentenced two former Border Patrol agents to at least 30 years in prison for running a ring that smuggled more than 500 illegal immigrants into the United States.
U.S. District Court Judge John Houston sentenced Raul Villarreal to 35 years in prison for being the ring leader and ordered him to pay a $250,000 fine. His brother, Fidel Villarreal, was sentenced to 30 years for managing the illicit business.
The sentences are among the longest given to border law enforcement officials for corruption.
Houston said he gave the severe sentences to deter other agents who have been entrusted by the American people to protect the border. The judge called their smuggling operation “disgusting” and a threat to national security.
Prosecutors said Raul Villarreal — who made television appearances as an agency spokesman and once played the role of a smuggler in a public service ad — recruited his brother to his ring. The veteran agents worked in cahoots with a corrupt Tijuana police officer and a network of others, including foot guides and drivers.
The agents would abandon their job duties manning the border to transport the migrants in Border Patrol vehicles — sometimes several times a day from the Mexican city of Tijuana to a rugged mountainous area along the California border, federal officials said. Prosecutors said they smuggled in as many as 1,000 Mexicans and Brazilians; the judge put the figure at more than 500.