SAN DIEGO -- A federal jury in San Diego found former U.S. Border Patrol agents Raul and Fidel Villarreal guilty of running an immigrant smuggling business while working for the Border Patrol in 2005-06. The jury also found the Villarreal brothers guilty of receiving bribes from public officials and conspiring to launder money.
Prosecutors said a third man, Armando Garcia, walked groups of illegal immigrants across the border, where the Villarreal brothers would pick them up in their official Border Patrol vehicles and transport them further into the U.S.
The younger brother, Raul Villarreal, had been a spokesperson for the agency.
The brothers abruptly quit their jobs in 2006 and fled to Mexico, allegedly after learning they were being investigated. They were arrested in Tijuana in 2008 and returned to the U.S. to stand trial.
The two face a maximum 50 years in prison each and fines totaling more than $1 million. They’re scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 16.
The number of corruption cases within U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which includes Border Patrol, has grown in recent years as the agency’s ranks swelled to beef up border security. Some 140 CBP employees have been arrested or indicted for corruption since 2004.
In July, a CBP agent stationed at the San Ysidro Port of Entry was arrested and charged with bribery and conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants into the country.