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Agent Admits Allowing Pot Into Country

May 25, 1988|RALPH FRAMMOLINO | Times Staff Writer

A former part-time U.S. Customs inspector, accused of waving truckloads of marijuana across the border checkpoint last year, pleaded guilty Tuesday to committing official corruption.

Jose Angel Barron, 41, of San Ysidro also pleaded guilty to money-laundering and possessing more than 1,000 kilos of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Phillip L. B. Halpern said Barron could be sentenced to life in federal prison--plus a 35-year consecutive term--on the charges.

Will Serve 10-Year Minimum

Halpern said Barron will have to serve at least 10 years of the life term before he is eligible for parole.

Barron, also a San Diego city parks manager, was arrested by Customs internal-affairs agents in May, 1987, while working in the primary inspection lanes at the border crossing. The agents had conducted on-the-job surveillance of Barron since February, 1987, and watched as he allowed two pickup trucks with camper shells and blacked-out windows cross the border without inspecting them.

Secret Photos Taken

Agents followed the trucks and found that they were loaded with marijuana. A search of Barron's home uncovered more than $70,000 in cash, and prosecutors said then that the part-time inspector served as a "major conduit" for drugs entering the United States.

Customs agents secretly photographed the alleged head of the marijuana smuggling ring entering Barron's house seven times, according to affidavits unsealed at the time of Barron's arrest.

City Worker for 21 Years

At the time of his arrest, Barron was a 21-year city employee making $28,000 annually as an area manager for the Park and Recreation Department.

Barron also earned $13,000 a year from his part-time Customs job, which he had held since 1981.

U.S. District Judge Rudi Brewster on Tuesday set Barron's sentencing for Sept. 6. The former inspector could also receive a $6-million fine.

Barron has remained in custody since his arrest.

At his sentencing, 64 similar corruption counts will be dismissed.

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