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Posted Oct 12, 2011, 3:26 pm
A Yuma Sector Border Patrol agent was found guilty of drug trafficking by a federal jury Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Michael Angelo Atondo, 34, of Yuma, was convicted of conspiracy to import 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, conspiracy to possess 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, and possession with intent to distribute.
Atondo, who was assigned to Yuma Sector's Wellton Station, was arrested April 4 after fellow agents were alerted to a sensor at the border fence. Atondo was found with his Border Patrol vehicle backed up to the fence with the rear door open facing three vehicles on the Mexico side, said Manny Tarango, a U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman, in a Wednesday press release.
Agents who searched the Atondo's vehicle found 44 bundles of marijuana stacked inside. The drugs weighed 745 pounds, or about 339 kilograms, Tarango said.
“This agent crossed the line into criminal conduct and violated his oath and the public’s trust,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel in the press release.
“The overwhelming majority of Border Patrol agents are honest, hardworking and trustworthy individuals," she said.
Atondo, who will be sentenced on Jan. 9, could face between five and 40 years in prison, a $2,000,000 fine, or both, and at least four years of supervised release, Tarango said.
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.