Stories impacting San Diego's Latino Community

San Diego Border Patrol Corruption Trial Underway

Two brothers stand accused of human smuggling, witness tampering and bribery.

By Diana Guevara
|  Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012  |  Updated 11:38 PM PDT
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2 Smuggling Attempts, 450 Pounds of Pot

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A trial for one of the highest profile U.S. Border Patrol corruption cases is underway.

Two former USBP agents are accused of smuggling hundreds of people into the U.S. illegally. 

The first two witnesses took the stand Tuesday in federal court, in what could be a month-long trial. The Villarreal brothers have pleaded not guilty to human smuggling, witness tampering and bribery. 

On Tuesday, prosecutors built their case against the Villarreals and Armando Garcia, an alleged accomplice. Meanwhile jurors listened to testimony from a current U.S. Border Patrol supervisor and an ICE agent.

Prosecutors say Raul Villarreal set up a human smuggling ring in April 2005.  They say he brought hundreds of migrants from Mexico into the U.S.while making his older brother and fellow border patrol agent Fidel, one of his partners in crime.

But defense attorneys say those accusations fall on unreliable witnesses, including alleged paid informants. 

Raul Villarreal is a former spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol, even appearing in a public service announcement warning Mexicans about the dangers of illegal immigration.

Prosecutors say the brothers abruptly quit the U.S. Border Patrol in June of 2006 and fled to Mexico after being tipped that they were under investigation.

The prosecution has promised a wide variety of evidence, including surveillance video, phone records and testimony. 

According to court documents more than 30 witnesses are expected to take the stand over the next few weeks.

Family members did not want to comment today. However, they say they plan to do so once the trial comes to a close.

 Diana Guevara covers stories involving San Diego's Latino community. Send her your thoughts via Twitter @nbcsandiego or add your comment to our Facebook page.
Find more of her stories in our special section.

 

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