Customs border officer gets prison for protecting human, drug smugglers

| 4/9/2010

A former U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after an investigation showed he worked with smugglers to personally usher illegal aliens and drugs across the border into Texas.

According to the FBI, Jose Raul Montano Jr., 35, of Weslaco, TX, was sentenced March 31 to 11 and one-half years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. This past November, Montano pleaded guilty to charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine; bribery; and the transporting of illegal aliens.

Investigators learned in 2008 that Montano used his authority at the U.S. Port of Entry in Brownsville, TX, to allow others to bring illegal aliens and drugs into the U.S. from Mexico. According to the FBI, Montano would tell smugglers when he would be working a particular lane at the border check and the smugglers would send drivers to that particular lane with cocaine and illegal aliens. Montano would allow the vehicles into the U.S. and later would be paid by a driver.

Montano admitted receiving bribes of $500 per vehicle since at least summer 2007, though the bribes grew to $8,000 to $10,000 per vehicle by the time he was arrested in April 2009.

“The public expects its duly sworn officers will enforce the law, not violate it,” said U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno, in a written statement. “The criminal conduct of this former officer is the exception, not the rule, among law enforcement. Our office will continue to aggressively pursue the exception and applaud the rule.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer