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Ex-CBP officer convicted of bribery after allowing vehicles with drugs, illegal migrants to cross border

A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer was convicted earlier this week of accepting bribes from groups wanting to bring drugs and illegal migrants across the southern border, the Department of Justice announced.

A federal jury found Leonard Darnell George guilty of the following charges on Monday: receiving bribes by a public official, conspiracy to import controlled substances and two counts of bringing in certain aliens for financial gain.

George, who the DOJ said was working for two separate criminal organizations, allowed vehicles containing meth and other illicit drugs and vehicles with illegal migrants to cross through his lane into the U.S. over a six-month span.

It was determined by prosecutors and law enforcement agents that George allowed the criminal organizations to make approximately 19 crossings during the six months.


Officer Eric Darnsteadt from the United States Customs and Border Protection service inspects the contents of shipping containers with a truck mounted X-ray machine arriving at Port Newark from all around the world, in Newark, New Jersey February 24, 2006. Powerful Washington lawmakers citing security concerns are pushing emergency legislation to block a controversial deal that would place management of six major U.S. ports in the hands of a state-owned Arab company. REUTERS/Chip East - RTR16LYP

During the trial, witnesses shared how George would get the vehicles through his San Diego border crossing at the San Ysidro Port of Entry from late 2021 through mid-2022. They testified that he would contact members of a drug trafficking organization when he was at work to let them know what lane he was working, then he would give them one hour to reach him.

In February 2022, a vehicle suspected of drug smuggling by law enforcement agents entered George’s lane, forcing him to send it to secondary inspection where approximately 222 pounds of meth was discovered.

George then let a second drug-filled vehicle, which was traveling right behind the flagged vehicle, cross the border into the U.S. with over 200 pounds of drugs inside it.

The trial revealed that George received $13,000 the next day for allowing the vehicle to cross the border, the DOJ said. He then used that money to purchase a 2020 Cadillac CT5 as a gift for an associate of the drug trafficking organization and delivered the car to the person in Ensenada, Mexico, on Valentine’s Day.

He would also change the names of the drivers coming through his lane, or omit passengers altogether, in order to conceal what he was allowing.

San Diego port of entry at southern border


Text messages shared during the trial showed George allowed the criminals to pass through his lane for $17,000 per vehicle. One message confirmed that he received $68,000 after allowing four vehicles from one organization to pass through his lane in June 2022, the DOJ said.

A witness testified George would use the money to buy vehicles, motorcycles and jewelry. He also frequently traveled to Tijuana to visit the Hong Kong Gentleman’s Club and would spend about $5,000 each trip “showering” the dancers with money and buying them bottles of alcohol and other gifts, the DOJ said.

“With this verdict, the jury sent a clear message to anyone considering trading in their badge for cash,” said U.S. Attorney Tara K. McGrath. “Abandoning the integrity of the uniform for the conspiracy of drug trafficking is a path to a criminal conviction.”

Cars along southern border entering US

George is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. on Sept. 13. He faces a maximum of life in prison with a mandatory 10-year minimum, according to the DOJ news release.

Read the full article here

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