A conspiracy among U.S. law enforcement officers and soldiers to smuggle cocaine from Mexico has increased concerns that public corruption north of the border was growing, the Los Angeles Times says. Wearing uniforms and driving U.S. military vehicles, 16 suspects were caught in a sting run by an FBI-led task force. Eleven entered guilty pleas yesterday in Tucson; the other five have agreed to do so soon. One federal inspector waved trucks he believed were carrying drugs across the border from Mexico to the U.S., the FBI said. Other defendants used Army National Guard Humvees to transport 132 pounds of cocaine from a desert landing strip to a resort hotel in Phoenix, where they were paid by an undercover FBI agent.
Justice Department officials called the case as a “widespread bribery and extortion conspiracy.” It is one of the largest recent public corruption cases along the U.S.-Mexico border. The three-year investigation, Operation Lively Green, was run by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Tucson police department. Paul Charlton, U.S. Attorney for Arizona, has said corruption “is a problem along the whole border. Along the port of entries, custom officials have been paid to assist with smuggling. Some of these people don’t have the ability to say no.”