San Diego

Ex-CBP Officer Sentenced for Accepting Bribes, Sexual Favors to Smuggle Illegal Immigrants

The former border officer charged up to $15,000 per person as part of the smuggling scheme

A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will spend five years in federal prison for taking sexual favors and cash in exchange for looking the other way when smugglers brought undocumented immigrants through his lane at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Jose Luis Cota, 51, was a 15-year veteran with CBP and worked at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. In September 2016, his career ended when it was discovered he was helping to smuggle illegal immigrants into the U.S.

Cota charged up to $15,000 per person as part of the smuggling scheme that ran from November 2015 to September 2016.

At times he would receive sexual favors for allowing vehicles with undocumented immigrants through his vehicle inspection lane.

When he was sentenced in federal court Monday, Cota was ordered to turn over two vehicles and $63,000.

“It feeds the popular narrative that there is corruption in government at some levels," U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller told the defendant. "There is a spot of rot in government. When this happens, it affects us all.”

Miriam Juarez-Herrera and Gilberto Aguilar-Martinez, both 32 years old and Mexican nationals, were part of the scheme.

Aguilar-Martinez was sentenced Monday to three years in prison. He is a two-time convicted felon and was previously deported as an undocumented immigrant. He will be deported again after completing his sentence.

His wife, Juarez-Herrera, will be sentenced on June 19.

Cota resigned from the CBP on January 10 when he accepted the plea agreement with federal prosecutors. He was ordered to report to prison on June 14.

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