Border Patrol agent confesses to spying for drug traffickers
Corrections officer, BP agent both arrested on drug charges
A Yuma-based Border Patrol agent and a state corrections officer confessed to drug trafficking after they were arrested Thursday in a case that includes an alleged plot to kill a confidential informant, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Friday.
Agent Ivhan Herrera Chiang, 29, and Michael Lopez Garcia, 28, an officer at the state prison in San Luis, were both charged with conspiracy to possess controlled substances with intent to distribute, according to U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Bill Solomon and a 19-page complaint filed with the court.
Herrera, of Yuma, and Lopez, who lives in Mexicali, Baja Calif., allegedly worked with a drug trafficking organization beginning in September 2010, according to the complaint written by Special Agent Daniel Sanchez of the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's Office.
Herrera is accused of using his position in Border Patrol intelligence to obtain and hand over sensitive information, including sensor maps, combinations to gate locks, records of drug seizures, and identities of confidential informants, the complaint said.
Lopez allegedly smuggled 2 pounds of methamphetamine into the United States through a port of entry and guided cocaine traffickers around Border Patrol agents and checkpoints. He's also accused of delivering drugs and information obtained by Herrera to the drug trafficking organization.
In November, Lopez allegedly told a confidential source that a "rat" had infiltrated the drug organization and that Lopez wanted him killed. Lopez told the source that Herrera would provide a photo of the "rat," so a hit man could identify him, according to the complaint.
Solomon said Lopez's drug buyer was actually an undercover agent.
According to the complaint, the undercover agent requested information in September on a drug seizure from a vehicle at the San Luis Port of Entry. Lopez told the agent that Herrera could get the information from databases he uses as a Border Patrol agent, but it would cost $500.
On Oct. 6, Lopez met with the undercover agent in Wellton where he handed the agent 1 pound of methamphetamine and a three-page printout of the requested information from the databases in exchange for $6,500, the complaint said.
Later that month, the undercover agent asked Lopez if he could obtain information on the records of a vehicle that potentially would be used for drug smuggling and wanted to ensure it had a "clean record," the complaint said. Lopez told the agent his friend — Herrera — would check it though his work computers.
On Nov. 1, an internal affairs review showed Herrera had accessed the databases for information on the car, the complaint said.
Herrera also provided sensor maps and Border Patrol gate combinations so the organization could smuggle people and drugs into the country. Lopez told the agent that Herrera would provide the combinations for $5,000 and the maps for $2,000, the complaint said.
Lopez was paid for the gate combinations in marked bills on Nov. 7, some of which were used by Herrera's wife the following day while shopping, the complaint said.
It was on Nov. 6, during a conversation with the undercover agent about the combinations, that Lopez mentioned he was concerned he'd be caught because there was a "rat" in the organization, according to the complaint.
Lopez said he wanted the "rat" killed and Herrera would provide the undercover agent with a photo that only could be seen, not kept, in case the hit man were caught and the photo found on him. Lopez feared that would lead back to him, the complaint said.
Lopez and Herrera both waived their Miranda rights before they confessed, the complaint said. It is unclear whether either has a lawyer.
If convicted, Herrera and Lopez each face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $10 million fine or both, Solomon said.
“Acts of corruption within the Department of Homeland Security represent a threat to our nation and undermine the honest and hardworking employees who strive to maintain the integrity of the Department. Corruption will not be tolerated and those who choose to break the law will be pursued aggressively," said Paul Leonard, Department of Homeland Security special agent in charge, in a press release.