DECEMBER 19, 2006
Dozens of recruiters from various branches of the U.S. military remained on the job – which includes regular visits to high schools–even though the FBI had evidence that for years they participated in a massive drug-smuggling ring along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Considered one of the country’s biggest public corruption cases in modern times, Operation Lively Green has led to the convictions of 69 members of the military, prison guards, law enforcement employees and other public servants for accepting bribes to help smuggle cocaine.
The investigation focused on adjacent U.S. Army and U.S. Marines recruiting stations located in a Tucson Arizona strip mall. They became known as Corruption Central because the seven recruiters running the stations were on the take, often captured by FBI surveillance video counting cash next to stacks of cocaine bricks. One Army National Guard recruiter sold cocaine from the trunk of his government-issued vehicle.
Although federal agents informed top military personnel about the evidence gathered in the three-year sting, the recruiters remained on the job as if nothing had happened. Some kept recruiting for years after they were first filmed running drugs in uniform. Many have pleaded guilty, but some have “honorably” retired.
The FBI sting was launched in 2001 after the FBI got a tip that an Army National Guardsman in Southern Arizona was accepting bribes to fix military aptitude tests for recruits. The investigation grew to include a massive drug-running operation that spanned across various military branches as well as other federal and state government agencies.
Authorities say the allowed the drug-smuggling military recruiters to remain on the job because they didn’t want to jeopardize the investigation and military officials say they didn’t know the recruiters were under investigation. Bottom line is that while they took bribes from Mexican drug cartels, these uniformed officers continued visiting high schools with bricks of cocaine in their government cars.
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