CA: CBP officer charged with taking bribes to allow drugs to pass through border

Officer Leonard George is lead defendant in seven-person indictment accusing him of taking bribes, participating in drug importation and distribution conspiracy

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer has been indicted on charges that he took bribes to allow drug-laden vehicles pass through the U.S.-Mexico border, according to federal prosecutors.

Leonard Darnell George faces a charge of receiving bribes by a public official and two conspiracy charges for trafficking and distributing drugs, according to an indictment that was made public Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego. Prosecutors allege George allowed vehicles containing stashes of methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine and heroin to enter the United States from Mexico.

If convicted of the bribery charge, George faces up to 15 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Court records showed George was arrested June 30 and made an initial appearance Monday in San Diego federal court. He’s set to appear again Thursday for a detention hearing at which a judge will determine if he should remain in custody.

An appointed attorney did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment, though it was unclear if that attorney was still representing George, as a judge ruled on Monday that the CBP officer had the ability to hire private counsel.

George is the lead defendant in a seven-person indictment — four of the defendants’ names remain redacted — that accuses the other six defendants of taking part in the alleged drug-importation and drug-distribution conspiracies. One of the other defendants is also charged with possessing two firearms — specifically, an AR-15-style rifle and an AK-47-style rifle — in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

The indictment offers few specifics about the purported scheme but alleges that George, who was known as “The Goalie,” began accepting bribes as early as October 2021 and continued to do so until at least June 2022, according to the indictment. The wider drug conspiracies allegedly began at an unknown date and continued up until at least May.

The indictment does not specify exactly how George allegedly facilitated the importation of the drugs, but CBP officers are responsible for monitoring vehicles that cross through ports of entry.

“The vast majority of CBP officers are highly skilled, hard-working professionals dedicated to our mission of protecting the American public and we do not stand for those that would tarnish our badge,” Sidney Aki, director of field operations for CBP in San Diego, said in a news release. “The San Diego Field Office will cooperate fully as the case proceeds.”

Though it’s unclear if the cases are connected in any way, two of George’s co-defendants were indicted earlier this year for an alleged cross-border crime scheme.

In that case, four men allegedly took part in a plot to steal a pickup in Mexico, drive it across the border and sell it to a Los Angeles-area man using a fake certificate of title. After they sold the truck for $18,000 cash, they allegedly followed the man to his home in a different car, waited for him to go inside and then stole the truck back using an extra key they’d kept, according to a criminal complaint.

In court documents filed in the stolen truck case, prosecutors alleged that the two men “reside in Ensenada, but cross into the United States through the San Ysidro Port of Entry regularly.”

After a judge ruled that one of the men could be released on bond, prosecutors filed a petition to keep him in custody, arguing he was a flight risk.

“A review of evidence seized on the date of defendant’s arrest has revealed additional criminal activity which the United States intends to charge through indictment, which will expose defendant to additional custodial time,” prosecutors wrote.

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Tags: Drug Trafficking DTO

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