JANUARY 13, 2011
In the latest of many scandals to rock a Homeland Security agency charged with protecting the Mexican border, a federal agent in southern California has been arrested for hiding illegal immigrants and drugs in a secret underground bunker at his home.The U.S. Border Patrol agent, Marcos Gerardo Manzano Jr., evidently operated an illicit business from his San Diego-area house because authorities discovered theunderground room in his yard this week. In it were illegal immigrants, 61 grams of methamphetamine and drug packaging paraphernalia. Federal prosecutors say the corrupt agent built the hidden chamber beneath a concrete slap in a backyard patio to hide narcotics and illegal immigrants.Among the illegal aliens living in the agent’s home is a twice-deported felon who happens to be his dad (apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; chip off the old block).The elder Manzano is currently a fugitive with a drug conviction. He has been deported twice to his native Mexico and junior has repeatedly lied to federal authorities by claiming he’s had no contact with pops.It turns out that senior had been hiding out at junior’s home, in a working class San Ysidro neighborhood, for well over a year. A special FBI taskforce created to weed out growing corruption among federal border agents finally busted Manzano and charged him with harboring illegal aliens and lying to federal investigators. There are serious concerns about bail since the disgraced federal agent travels regularly toMexico to visit his girlfriend and family and could easily flee if he’s released.This simply marks the latest of numerous cases involving border agents on the take. In the last few years a number of Homeland Security officers—from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Border Patrol—have been criminally charged for taking bribes to help illegal immigrants and drugs enter the U.S. Investigations are pending against hundreds of others and strict background checks have been implemented in an effort to better screen candidates.Among the government’s most embarrassing case is a Border Patrol agent named Oscar Ortiz who admitted smuggling 100 illegal immigrants into the country in his government vehicle. The punch line is that Ortiz is himself an illegal immigrant who used a false birth certificate to get his government job. Once he got sworn in, Ortiz charged Mexicans $300 to $2,000 a pop to sneak them in through a crossing near Tecate.
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