SAN DIEGO -- Two former Border Patrol agents pleaded guilty Friday to accepting nearly 0,000 in bribes for releasing immigrant smugglers and illegal immigrants from federal custody.
Mario Alvarez and Samuel McClaren each face up to 18 years in prison when they are sentenced Sept. 29, U.S. District Judge John Houston said. Each pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and one count of filing a false tax return.
"These are Border Patrol agents who smuggled illegal aliens," U.S. Attorney Carol Lam said. "It doesn't get much worse than that."
Alvarez admitted taking 0,300 from a smuggling organization from June 2003 to March 2006; McClaren admitted taking ,940 from the same smuggling organization.
The former agents did not make any statements beyond acknowledging guilt. Alvarez is free on bond and McClaren planned to post bail soon, defense attorney Martin Molina said.
According to the indictment, the two agents took bribes while in the Border Patrol's El Centro sector, which covers the eastern half of California's border with Mexico.
The complaint said they brought two smugglers into the United States in a government vehicle in September 2004 and released one of them from federal custody three months later in exchange for ,000. In October 2005, the agents dropped off an illegal immigrant who was to be deported to Mexico at a Wal-Mart parking lot for ,000, the complaint said.