Texas

Former border guard convicted of smuggling cocaine through a checkpoint in South Texas

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) – A former US Border Patrol agent is due to serve 10 years in prison for his involvement in a drug smuggling scheme through a South Texas checkpoint.

The Justice Department said Oberlin Cortez Peña Jr., 23, of La Jolla, Texas, was sentenced on Friday by US District Judge Randy Crane in McAllen.

According to U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani, Peña pleaded guilty on December 17, 2021 to attempting to aid and abet cocaine smuggling through the Falfurrias checkpoint.

During the hearing, Peña told the court that he had an AR-15 rifle that he used to hunt pigs, but prosecutors said she brandished it during a meeting with co-defendant Edwin Alejandro Castillo while planning to “smuggling a second shipment.” cocaine through the Falfurrias BP checkpoint,” according to a press release.

In sentencing, Crane found his explanation “unconvincing and appreciated the stiffening of the sentence for possession of a firearm while involved in drug trafficking,” according to a press release.

At the time of his request, Peña admitted that he twice helped smuggle more than five kilograms of cocaine through the Falfurrias checkpoint, using information he had as a border guard agent to guide the shipments through certain lanes of the checkpoint. The Justice Department says he also acted as a scout and provided information about the lanes to be tested and which ones to use. He also gave detailed instructions on how to hide the drugs and distract the canine units.

“Honest enforcement is the cornerstone of public trust,” Hamdani said. “This defendant violated his oath to uphold the Constitution and betrayed that trust to engage in criminal activities for financial gain. Today’s verdict is a signal that we will actively investigate and prosecute allegations of law enforcement corruption and continue to seek strong convictions when necessary to protect the public and their trust in our institutions.”

Four more people were convicted as part of the investigation. Christian Nicole West, 33, of Corpus Christi, and Herbie Jose Solis III, 29, of Mission, pleaded guilty to alien smuggling. Castillo, 24, from Sullivan City, and Jose Luis Duran, 26, from the Mission, confessed to smuggling illegal migrants. Duran was also convicted of conspiring to receive a bribe. Each of them received 36 months in prison.

Peña was on bail but was taken into custody in December after a firearm was found on his ranch.

The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security conducted an investigation with the assistance of the Office of Professional Responsibility of the US Customs and Border Protection.

Sandra Sanchez can be contacted at [email protected]

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