2 former officers in Arizona admit helping smugglers

YUMA, AZ - A U.S. Border Patrol agent and an Arizona corrections officer face lengthy federal prison terms on allegations that they passed codes to unlock border gates, maps of hidden sensors and other sensitive information to smugglers before losing their jobs.

Ex-agent Ivhan Herrera-Chiang and former state Corrections Officer Michael Lopez-Garcia are to be sentenced Aug. 12 in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. Plea agreements with prosecutors call for each man to receive up to 15 years in prison.

Herrera-Chiang pleaded guilty Friday to bribery of a public official, the Yuma Sun reported Tuesday.

Federal court records indicate Lopez-Garcia pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy and to conspiracy to possess controlled substances with intent to distribute.

Both men were charged in early 2012 with conspiracy to possess drugs with intent to distribute.

As a Border Patrol agent, Herrera-Chiang, 29, was stationed in Yuma, while Lopez-Garcia, 28, worked at the state prison in San Luis, Ariz.

In his plea agreement, Herrera-Chiang said he provided maps and combinations to border gates to Lopez-Garcia to give to smugglers. The maps showed the locations of sensors hidden along the border to detect people entering the country illegally.

Herrera-Chiang said he also used a law enforcement database to look up confidential information about a drug load for Lopez-Garcia.

Lopez-Garcia said he was paid $5,000 for the gate combinations and that he shared the money with Herrera-Chiang.

Lopez-Garcia said he provided the information to smugglers and also acted as a lookout for smugglers and twice smuggled methamphetamine into the United States.

Lopez-Garcia admitted selling the smuggled methamphetamine as well as smuggled cocaine to a drug trafficker, but the buyer was an undercover agent.

In his plea agreement, Lopez-Garcia also admitted asking someone in a drug trafficking organization to arrange the murder of a government informant whom Lopez-Garcia thought had incriminating evidence about him and his activities.
 

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