Drug Trafficking Conviction Underlines US Border Corruption

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A US Border Patrol agent has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for providing information that helped traffickers move drugs into the United States from Mexico, in a case which underscores the growing problem of corruption among US border officials.

While working as an undercover Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent based in Yuma, Arizona, Ivhan Herrera-Chiang provided information to an Arizona prison officer, which was subsequently passed on to smugglers bringing drugs across the frontier from Mexico.

Herrera-Chiang provided maps of hidden underground sensors, lock combinations to gates along the border and the location of CBP traffic checkpoints, as well as a detailed description of a CBP informant in Mexico who was almost assassinated, reported AZ Central.

Herrera-Chiang — who was originally arrested and pleaded guilty in 2012 — claimed he did not know the information was being used to aid drug trafficking and that he received less than $5,000 for the intelligence, although the prison officer — who was imprisoned for 9 years in 2012 — claimed Herrera-Chiang received up to $60,000, according to AZ Central.

InSight Crime Analysis

The training and anti-corruption procedures in place for US border patrol agents are far more stringent than for their counterparts across the border, but as this case and others like it highlight, with such vast sums of money at stake US institutions are far from immune to corruption.

According to a report on corruption among border officials issued by the Center for Investigative Reporting, 125 out of 152 highlighted cases between 2005 and 2012 were directly tied to drug trafficking, bribery or human smuggling — all offences closely associated with organized crime. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of US/Mexico Border

The sentencing of Herrera-Chiang comes on the back of other recent cases of corruption among CBP officers, and corruption has surged alongside an exponential growth in the number of agents employed — the force grew 40 percent between 2006 and 2012.  

Earlier this year, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a letter (pdf) to both legislative chambers of the US government, highlighting the growth of the CBP and calling for standardized integrity training within the force.

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