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INS Agent Accused of Bribery

September 26, 2000|KEN ELLINGWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment Monday accusing a border inspector of taking $90,000 in bribes to allow cars carrying marijuana and undocumented immigrants into the United States.

Jose Antonio Olvera, 36, an inspector for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, was among five people named in an indictment in U.S. District Court in San Diego.

According to the indictment, Olvera would let the others know which lane he was overseeing and wave through their vehicles, loaded with drugs or immigrants, without inspection. He allegedly got $2,000 to $4,000 per load between October 1997 and November 1998.

Olvera, charged with bribery and conspiracy, worked at both San Diego border crossings in San Ysidro and Otay Mesa during four years as an inspector.

He was the fourth INS official in San Diego to be charged with helping smugglers since 1998. Two were convicted in federal court and one pleaded guilty.

Olvera was charged in the scheme along with four Mexican citizens. Three, including Olvera, were arrested Friday and entered not guilty pleas Monday. A fourth defendant had yet to enter a plea and the fifth remained at large, said U.S. Atty. Gregory A. Vega.

A special border corruption task force began investigating Olvera in March 1998 after getting a tip.

The indictment accused Guillermo Hernandez Mancilla, 40, of Ensenada of telling Olvera which vehicles would arrive at the port of entry. Olvera would signal Hernandez by pager which lane to use and when, according to the indictment. The other defendants also smuggled loads of drugs or illegal immigrants, prosecutors said.

Olvera conspired to allow more than a ton of marijuana into the country, according to the indictment.

Conviction on the bribery charge carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence. Conspiracy to smuggle marijuana can bring up to 10 years. Conspiracy to smuggle immigrants can carry up to five, Vega said.

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