A Washington state man allegedly sold maps that showed the location of Border Patrol sensors and cameras at the U.S.-Canada border to someone he thought was involved with smuggling people and drugs.
BELLINGHAM — A Washington state man allegedly sold maps that showed the location of Border Patrol sensors and cameras at the U.S.-Canada border to someone he thought was involved with smuggling people and drugs.
Those maps, which were dated 2007, showed where to cross the border in the Blaine area with the least chance of detection.
Leif Rankin, of Bellingham, was arrested on suspicion of theft of government property Sept. 26 after allegedly selling the documents for $6,000 to an undercover informant for the Department of Homeland Security. His case is being heard in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
According to court documents, agents with Homeland Security’s Integrated Border Enforcement Team were told about Rankin’s possession of the maps Sept. 1 by officers of the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force. Officers told the agency that Rankin was offering the documents for sale for $10,000, and he had been asking criminals he knew if they knew any cross-border smugglers who would be interested in buying the maps.
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Agents arranged for the introduction of an undercover informant, who posed as an East Indian residing in Canada involved in international drug and human smuggling. On Sept. 21, Rankin told the informant about the maps and explained that though the maps were dated 2007, he had explored the border area and found the information in the maps accurate, according to court documents.
He described the maps as very valuable to anyone hoping to sneak across the border and agreed to sell the maps to the informant for $6,000. He described the documents as 12 to 15 pages, including maps and details of at least 120 sensor and camera locations.
Rankin reportedly told the informant that he had come across the government documents inside a book at a garage sale at a Border Patrol agent’s home. He said he stole them from the sale when he realized how valuable they could be.
According to court documents, Rankin met with the informant Sept. 26 and sold him the maps, making numerous statements about how they could be used to defeat border-security measures. He told the informant about his domestic drug-trafficking activities and offered to work with the informant on cross-border trafficking. Rankin has a number of theft and drug offenses.
Shortly after the sale, agents moved in to arrest Rankin. He ran briefly but was stopped when an agent used a Taser on him.
In interviews with agents, Rankin said he knew the documents were government property but he didn’t consider selling them could be a risk to national security, according to court papers. He said that a friend who lived with him found the documents at a garage sale and asked Rankin to look for buyers, the papers say.
The friend was interviewed while in Whatcom County Jail on other charges, and he said he had bought a box of miscellaneous computer wires and cables at a garage sale. He found documents at the bottom of the box but was arrested a short time later. He said Rankin was later kicked out of the house when he was caught taking other people’s things from the garage. The friend told agents that the papers were white, but the ones that Rankin had sold were pink; agents believe he made copies of the documents.
Rankin remains in custody at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac as his case moves through court.