Smugglers Get by With Help Of Corrupt Agents!

Smugglers Get by With Help Of Corrupt Agents!
Posted by FoM on March 09, 1999 at 06:06:51 PT

DONNA, Texas  In November 1997, when Miguel Carreon was hired as the police chief of this small town nine miles from the Mexican border, he vowed to restore the integrity of a force whose reputation had been sullied by the indictment of six officers accused of helping to smuggle 1,700 pounds of marijuana into the United States. 
  Within months, however, a local figure approached Carreon and hinted that the police should continue to cooperate with drug smugglers. "He told me that drug smuggling has always been a way of life, and as long as nobody gets hurt, nobody will know the difference," the 42-year-old chief recalled. "I stopped the conversation before he said, `Let's work together.' "   U.S. officials and politicians are blasting the Clinton administration's decision to certify Mexico as an ally in the war on drugs in the face of Mexico's endemic drug corruption. But Carreon's encounter suggests that a growing number of American law enforcement officials are also having trouble staying clean amid the flood of dirty money and drugs across the 2,000-mile border.   From small-town police departments to the expanding ranks of federal anti-drug agencies, American officials say they are alarmed by their own vulnerability to the corrupting influence of the drug trade. In a report to Congress last month, the U.S. Customs Service called drug trafficking "the undisputed, greatest corruption hazard confronting all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies today."   The number of state and local law enforcement and other public officials investigated by the FBI and convicted for drug corruption has increased from 79 in 1997 to 157 last year. Between 1994 and 1997, there were 46 drug-related indictments in the United States of border law enforcement officials.   "It's been overwhelming on the Southwest border," said Wayne Beaman, the special agent in charge of the McAllen, Texas, field office for the Justice Department Inspector General's office, which investigates allegations of corruption along the Texas-Mexico border. "We are woefully understaffed."   The congressional General Accounting Office (GAO) is about to release a yearlong study that concludes that drug-related corruption along the Southwest border is a serious and continuing threat, according to a draft of the report obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.   The GAO examined 28 convictions between 1992 and 1997 of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and Customs Service officials for drug-related crimes on the Southwest border, which extends from Brownsville, Texas, to Imperial Beach, Calif.   The cases included U.S. officials waving vehicles carrying drugs through ports of entry, coordinating the movement of drugs across the Southwest border, transporting drugs past Border Patrol checkpoints, selling drugs and disclosing drug intelligence information.   The report concludes that both Customs and the INS missed opportunities to provide in-depth anti-corruption training to employees and failed to conduct background investigations that are required every five years. In some cases, the report says, background checks were overdue by as much as three years.   The two agencies also failed to require sufficient financial information from their employees.   In one case, the INS did not question a Border Patrol agent who owned a $200,000 house with a five-car garage and an Olympic-size swimming pool housed in its own building. The agent also had six vehicles, two boats, 100 weapons, $45,000 in Treasury bills and 40 acres of land.   Because neither INS nor Customs had completed an evaluation of its policies and procedures or corrected internal weaknesses, the GAO concluded, "neither agency can be sure that adequate internal controls are in place to detect and prevent employee corruption."   The Customs Service, which is part of the Treasury Department, conceded to Congress last month that it may not have adequate internal controls in place to detect and prevent corruption.   Customs Commissioner Raymond Kelly told the Star-Telegram that his agency has begun taking steps to tighten its hiring process and tackle the backlog of personnel investigations.   INS spokesman Greg Gagne said he would not comment directly on the GAO report because it was still in draft form. But he said the agency is confident that its training practices and background checks are thorough and rival those of any other agency.   Although Gagne said there is no indication of an increase in corruption in its ranks, he also said the INS is concerned that its growing number of employees along the border are being targeted more often by drug smugglers. By year's end the INS hopes to have a work force of 29,000, compared to 10,000 in 1992.
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