A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, accused of accepting cash and sexual favors in exchange for allowing undocumented immigrants through his border lane, faced a federal court judge in San Diego Friday.
Officer Jose Luis Cota did not want to comment on the charges as he walked into the federal courthouse downtown.
However, his attorney said he accepted several terms of a possible plea deal in court and plans to plead guilty.
Cota is accused of accepting cash and sexual favors from a woman who has pleaded guilty to smuggling at least 10 people from Mexico into the U.S. between November 2015 and September 2016.
Miriam Juarez-Herrera, 35, of Mexico pleaded guilty to bribery of a public official and bringing in unlawful aliens for financial gain, according to federal officials.
Juarez-Herrera said she would use false paperwork to bring people into the U.S. through Cota’s vehicle lane at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Once the group was inside the U.S., a second defendant would transport them to family members and retrieve the $15,000 fee.
That defendant, 31-year-old Gilberto Aguilar-Martinez, also pleaded guilty to federal charges.
Cota has pleaded not guilty. In a statement, CBP said Cota first began with the agency in August 2001. He is on unpaid administrative leave.
"When there's criminal activity going on such as this and you have law enforcement officials who are engaging in criminal activity and permitting individuals to enter the U.S. you actually don't know who is entering the United States", said Lara Stingle, Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Cota's next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, January 10.
The three defendants were arrested in September 2016 after an investigation by the Border Corruption Task Force (BCTF).
FBI investigators say following smuggling events on Nov. 3, 2015, Nov. 16, 2015, March 15 and Sept. 7, large sums of cash were deposited into Cota’s bank accounts.
Juarez-Herrera and Aguilar-Martinez, both of Mexico, will be sentenced April 7.