HomeNewsBriefMexico Cartels Recruiting US Border Agents: Inspector General
BRIEF

Mexico Cartels Recruiting US Border Agents: Inspector General

MEXICO / 16 APR 2015 BY LOREN RIESENFELD EN

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees are being recruited by Mexican cartels to help smuggle drugs across the US-Mexico border, according to testimony from the Inspector General, highlighting the inability of border agencies to root out persistent corruption problems.

In his written testimony presented to the US House of Representatives (pdf) April 15, DHS Inspector General John Roth said Mexican drug trafficking organizations “have turned to recruiting and corrupting DHS employees.” Agents along the border receive “cash bribes, sexual favors, and other gratuities” to let contraband through inspection lanes at border crossings.

The obvious form of corruption involves physically aiding smugglers, like the case of one border patrol agent who helped three traffickers bring 147 pounds of marijuana across the US-Mexico border. But corruption is not confined to the border region: Roth also noted the case of a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) supervisor who helped traffickers avoid security screening at an airport in the US Virgin Islands.

The less obvious form of corruption, according to Roth, is when officers leak sensitive information to drug traffickers, allowing them to track investigations and root out informants. In one case, a border patrol agent passed the locations of border patrol units, sensor maps, access codes to gates along the border, and computer records of drug seizures to a former Arizona state prison guard who worked with a smuggling group.

According to Roth, “only a small percentage of employees have committed criminal acts.” Of the 240,000 people employed at DHS, there were 16,281 complaints in 2014. Only 564 of these complaints led to investigations, and 112 resulted in criminal convictions.

InSight Crime Analysis

It is true that a very small percentage of DHS employees are convicted of criminal offenses; Roth maintained in his testimony that the actions of the few should not damage the credibility of many. But years of allegations along the border indicate DHS agencies may have persistent and systemic corruption problems.

The size of agencies like Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have ballooned over the last decade, but the Inspector General has less than one investigator for every 1000 employees. In 2014, DHS released a report that over 2,000 officers were under investigation for links to organized crime. In CBP, the majority of corruption cases involve drug trafficking, closely followed by bribery, according the Center for Investigative Reporting, which maintains a database of CBP officers that have been convicted of crimes.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Police Reform

DHS agencies are not the only US law enforcement agencies susceptible to corruption along the border. In one flagrant case, an elite anti-drug unit in the Hidalgo county sheriff department evolved from stealing drugs and cash during successful busts to moving half-ton drug shipments of their own through Texas.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

MEXICO / 15 MAY 2015

Authorities in Mexico have found dozens of mass graves and hundreds of bodies near the city of Iguala since September,…

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 10 JUN 2019

Government-regulated crocodile and turtle farms have helped reduce illegal hunting and protect endangered species, but the illicit trade continues.

JALISCO CARTEL / 4 MAY 2015

Mexico's Jalisco Cartel, which previously killed 15 policemen in an ambush, has now downed a military helicopter and set ablaze…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.