Former border guard jailed for cocaine smuggling

McAllen, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A former US Border Patrol agent will be sent to federal prison for attempting to aid and abet cocaine smuggling through a checkpoint, the US Department of Justice announced Friday.

Oberlin Cortez Pena Jr., 23, La Jolla, pleaded guilty on December 17, 2021. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Peña to 10 years in prison, followed by a five-year supervised release.

At the hearing, the court heard further evidence that Peña brandished an AR-15 rifle during a meeting with co-defendant Edwin Alejandro Castillo to plan the smuggling of a second shipment of cocaine through the Falfurrias BP checkpoint, according to a Justice Department press release. .

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

The Justice Department press release also said four more people were convicted as part of the investigation. Christian Nicole West, 33, Corpus Christi, and Herbie Jose Solis III, 29, Mission, pleaded guilty to alien smuggling.

Castillo, 24, Sullivan City, and Jose Luis Duran, 26, Mission, confessed to alien smuggling. During their pleas, Castillo also confessed to bribery and Duran was also found guilty of conspiring to commit bribery. Each of them received three years in prison.

Pena had previously been released on bail, but was taken into custody in December 2022 after a firearm was found in his ranch.

He will remain in custody pending transfer to a US Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

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