Border Patrol agents guilty of human smuggling

Richard Marosi (Los Angeles Times) | August 11, 2012

Two former U.S. Border Patrol agents face a maximum of 50 years in prison after being found guilty Friday of multiple counts of conspiracy, bribery and human smuggling.

The conviction ends a long-running case that became an example of the pernicious reach of corruption into Border Patrol ranks. Raul Villarreal, 42, was once the face of the agency in the San Diego area, making frequent appearances on Spanish-language television newscasts as a media liaison.

He once played the role of a coldhearted Mexican smuggler in a public service announcement meant to discourage immigrants from making dangerous border crossings.

In the field, Raul and his brother, Fidel Villarreal, 44, partnered with Mexican smugglers who guided immigrants on foot across the border in the rugged backcountry east of San Diego. The brothers picked up the immigrants and transported them farther into the country in their official government vehicles, according to prosecutors.

Two smugglers who partnered with the brothers were also convicted of taking part in the scheme, which ran from 2005 to 2006. Over the two-year period, dozens of smuggling runs brought about 500 immigrants into the country, generating up to $4 million in profits, according to investigators from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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