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Ex-Border Patrol agent gets 13 years for drug trafficking, accepting bribe

A former Border Patrol agent will serve 160 months in prison for attempting to smuggle 110 pounds of cocaine in a rental car headed for Chicago, and for accepting bribes as a public official. 

Juan Ramon Pimentel, 48, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Raner Collins after he agreed to a plea deal last June. He had been charged in November 2015. Following his prison sentence, Pimentel will face five years of supervised release. 

A 14-year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol, Pimentel was driving in a rented gray Ford Expedition in November 2015 when he was pulled over by Arizona Department of Public Safety officers on Interstate 10 near Marana because his license plate was not illuminated, according to court records. 

Pimentel told the officer, identified as "Trooper Lankow" in court records, that he was driving to Flagstaff and did not know who rented the vehicle he was driving. He also told Lankow that he was a Border Patrol agent and presented his credentials, tell the trooper that he was carrying a firearm, a .40-caliber Glock 22. 

Lankow searched the vehicle, and discovered four black suitcases. He opened one and discovered a "bundle wrapped in a manner consistent with transported cocaine." Lankow slit open one of the bundles and "saw what appeared to be a white powdery substance," court records said. 

There were 50 bundles in the suitcases, weighing around 110 pounds, court records said. 

Pimentel admitted to Lankow that he knew there were drugs in vehicle and that he was going to be paid $50,000 for transporting the drugs to Chicago. 

Following his arrest, Pimentel resigned as a Border Patrol agent. 

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Pimentel was also charged with accepting bribes as a public official. In Feb. 2015, Pimentel took $500 to look up a license plate in a sensitive law enforcement database.

Acting U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange praised the sentencing in a press release. 

"Law enforcement officers take an oath to enforce the law, and Mr. Pimentel repeatedly violated that oath by taking bribes and trafficking drugs across the country," she said. "Our office will continue to vigorously prosecute any official who crosses the line to engage in criminal acts."

The investigation was conducted by the FBI'S Southern Arizona Corruption Task Force, the Office of Inspector General for Homeland Security, and the Office of Professional Responsibility with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon E. Davenport in Tucson.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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