The Enemy Within: Bribes Bore a Hole in the U.S. Border
New York Times
By Ron Nixon
DEC. 28, 2016
In 2012, Joohoon David Lee, a federal Homeland Security agent in Los Angeles, was assigned to investigate the case of a Korean businessman accused of sex trafficking.
Instead of carrying out a thorough inquiry, Mr. Lee solicited and received about $13,000 in bribes and other gifts from the businessman and his relatives in return for making the “immigration issue go away,” court records show.
Mr. Lee, an agent with Homeland Security Investigations at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, filed a report saying: “Subject was suspected of human trafficking. No evidence found and victim statement contradicts. Case closed. No further action required.”
A plea agreement for Joohoon David Lee, a homeland security agent, details his request and acceptance of a bribe from a Korean businessman. But after another agent alerted internal investigators about Mr. Lee’s interference in another case, his record was examined and he was charged with bribery. He pleaded guilty in July and was sentenced to 10 months in prison.
It was not an isolated case. A review by The New York Times of thousands of court records and internal agency documents showed that over the last 10 years almost 200 employees and contract workers of the Department of Homeland Security have taken nearly $15 million in bribes while being paid to protect the nation’s borders and enforce immigration laws.
Bribes Take Different Forms – Cash isn’t the only method of payment.
Here are some other items that were given as bribes:
Richard Elizalda – The Customs and Border Protection officer was given a 2000 Lexus.
Mai Nhu Nguyen – The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer received 100 egg rolls for a party.
Guadalupe Garza – The Customs and Border Protection officer received Cialis pills and a “sexual device”
James Dominguez – The Immigration Customs Enforcement special agent received three trips to Thailand.
Johnny Acosta – Customs Border Agent was sentenced to eight years in prison for bribery and drug smuggling and sentenced to eight years in prison for bribery and drug smuggling.
Eduardo Bazan – A Border Patrol agent in McAllen, Tex., was arrested and accused of helping a drug trafficking organization smuggle cocaine.
José Cruz-López – A Transportation Security Administration screener at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, P.R., was arrested around the same time as Bazan and accused of taking $215,000 in bribes to help smuggle drugs.
Ivhan Herrera-Chiang – Former Border Patrol Agent was sentenced to 15 years for providing sensitive law enforcement information to drug cartels.
Source: Court Documents
These employees have looked the other way as tons of drugs and thousands of undocumented immigrants were smuggled into the United States, the records show. They have illegally sold green cards and other immigration documents, have entered law enforcement databases and given sensitive information to drug cartels. In one case, the information was used to arrange the attempted murder of an informant.
The Times’s findings most likely undercount the amount of bribes because in many cases court records do not give a tally. The findings also do not include gifts, trips or money stolen by Homeland Security employees.
Throughout his campaign, President-elect Donald J. Trump said border security would be one of his highest priorities. As he prepares to take office, he will find that many of the problems seem to come from within.
“It does absolutely no good to talk about the building of walls or tougher enforcement if you can’t secure the integrity of the immigration system, when you have fraud and corruption with your own employees,” said an internal affairs official at the Department of Homeland Security who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Although Homeland Security employees who have been caught taking bribes represent less than 1 percent of the more than 250,000 people who work at the department, investigators say the bribes and small numbers of people arrested and charged with bribery obscure the impact corruption can have on border security and immigration enforcement.
“Any amount is bad, and one person alone can do a lot of damage,” said John Roth, the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security. “It doesn’t have to be widespread.”
Law enforcement experts say the bribing of border and immigration agents is not surprising. As security along the border has tightened with the addition of fences, drones and sensors, drug cartels and human smugglers have found it increasingly more difficult to operate.
Is it treason? No.
Some people accused of accepting bribes were caught passing information to cartels and foreign criminals. It is not considered espionage or treason because they did not pass the information to a foreign government or state actor.
“So it makes sense that cartels would target and try to corrupt border interdiction agents,” said Fred Burton, chief security officer at Stratfor, a global intelligence company, and a former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. “It’s very similar to the tactics and tradecraft used by foreign intelligence services during the Cold War.”
Homeland Security officials, acknowledging that internal corruption is a problem, have hired more internal affairs investigators, provided ethics training and started to administer polygraph tests to new applicants, along with counter surveillance training to employees so they can recognize when they are being targeted by criminal organizations.
Customs and Border Protection, which has had dozens of its officers arrested and charged with bribery, said it had made additional changes to combat corruption. Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, in 2014 gave authority to the agency’s internal affairs office to conduct criminal investigations for the first time. And Mark Morgan, a former F.B.I. agent who had investigated corruption on the border, was put in charge of the Border Patrol.
“Corrupt C.B.P. law enforcement personnel pose a national security threat,” a Department of Homeland Security report (final draft site found) released in May concluded. The report also revealed numerous problems with efforts to root out corruption among Border Patrol and customs agents. The report said the “true levels of corruption within C.B.P. are not known. ”
Convicted former border and immigration agents give different reasons for taking bribes, from financial troubles to drug use. But for many, it was simple greed.
Read the entire article HERE. (emphasis in this post is mine)
This is an excellent job of reporting done by NYT reporter Ron Nixon and contributing assistance by Kitty Bennett and Mikayla Bouchard. NYT was apparently the only MSM who bothered to research and report on this topic though a few possibly labeled by MSM as “fake news sites” have spoken out about it.
It’s a shame more information like this is not being provided rather than the drivel, censorship, and liberal bias displayed over the past few years by MSMs. This is what good reporting should be about — informing citizens who then decide what they should do, not watering down and shading reports to help those who pay them in some way to gain political ends.
Judicial Watch sounded the corruption alarm back in 2011 yet no MSM would write on the topic? The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) has a site listing agents from 2005-2011 which apparently got shut down on updates since no new cases appear to have been added after 2011.
The point is that a quick scan by a responsible reporter doing their job to keep our citizens informed could have found a wealth of information over the last four years or more that might have provided needed impetus by citizens to force congressional leaders to correct the issues assuming Obama had not interfered.
I am guessing “someone” did not want that information going public as it is a clear indictment of DHS, FBI, and DoJ who should have been overseeing and held responsible for investigating incidents, employee hiring, and review practices for all agents. I doubt these are the only agencies with inconsistencies, bribes, and a dozen other activities that need to be swept clean with the incoming administration.
In the case of homeland security, I blame the main actor at the top in the oval office and his appointees. One leads by example and we know for a fact that Obama can’t lead worth a damn. There is going to be a HUGE dust storm coming from DC after January 21, 2017.