A former U.S. Border Patrol agent will spend two and a half years in prison for smuggling a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of endangered sea cucumber and trafficking enough precursor to produce millions of deadly doses of fentanyl.
U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel sentenced former BP Agent Cesar Daleo, 49, of Chula Vista, Thursday to concurrent sentences of 30 months and 24 for months, respectively, for his roles in the fentanyl precursor and sea cucumber smuggling conspiracies.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Daleo paid someone to smuggle dried sea cucumber into the U.S. from Mexico at least 80 times between late 2014 and late 2016. The value of the smuggled sea cucumber is estimated at over $250,000.
The specific species of sea cucumber Daleo smuggled (Isostichophus fuscus) is native to Mexico and is internationally protected. Certificates from the country of origin are required for sea cucumber to be imported.
Daleo also admitted to conspiring to distribute 4-anilino-N-phenethyl-4-piperidine (4ANPP), which the court says is the primary ingredient in the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
Authorities at the border arrested Daleo August 29, 2017, when he tried to drive into the Mexico with a package containing what he thought was 4ANPP. The package had been shipped from China to a post office in San Ysidro where Daleo received 13 other shipments, court documents said.
Unbeknownst to Daleo, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at the Los Angeles International Airport intercepted a shipment of 4ANPP headed for San Ysidro about two weeks earlier. Agents replaced the narcotics with a harmless substance, put the package back in transit, and waited for someone to pick it up in San Ysidro.
The amount of 4ANPP seized by CBP agents at the airport, 1 kilogram, was enough to produce about 25 kilograms of fentanyl.