PHOENIX (AP) — A U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona has been arrested and charged after state troopers found 110 pounds of cocaine in his rental car that he planned to transport to Chicago, authorities said Monday.
A criminal complaint filed in federal court shows Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers stopped agent Juan Pimentel, 47, on Nov. 18 near Marana, just north of Tucson.
The complaint says Pimentel was driving a rental car and identified himself as a Border Patrol agent when he was pulled over.
He consented to a search that resulted in the seizure of about 50 bundles of cocaine weighing 2 pounds each, the complaint states. The bundles were in four black suitcases.
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The document says Pimentel initially told a state trooper the drugs weren’t his, but later said he was going to be paid $50,000 to transport them to Chicago.
Pimentel has been charged with possession with intent to distribute. He remains detained in Arizona.
His attorney, Eric Manch, said Pimentel hasn’t filed a plea because he has not been formally indicted. Manch noted his client is entitled to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske announced the arrest during a news conference in Phoenix while talking about corruption within the agency.
“Let me tell you that when he is convicted or pleads guilty to that charge that the badge that he had as a United States Border Patrol agent will be destroyed – it will never be worn again by another Border Patrol agent,” Kerlikowske said.
“So we have all of these significant and important issues that we’re dealing with, plus making sure that we have the integrity and the trust and the credibility of the people we serve by addressing as aggressively as possible the issues of corruption.”
Art Del Cueto, president of the Border Patrol union in the Tucson Sector, which comprises most of the Arizona, said agents normally take their oaths very seriously and are dedicated to protecting the border.
“The corruption always rears its ugly head, but it’s not a direct view of the way all other agents are,” he said. “Agents don’t want to work with corrupt agents.”