By the time a U.S. Customs agent in El Paso was arrested in 2007, she is thought to have let more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana into the U.S., reports the Center for Investigative Reporting in Mother Jones. In return, she reportedly received millions in bribes, much of which remains unaccounted for. Last April, she pled guilty and was sentenced to 20 years and ordered to forfeit as much as $5 million, plus jewelry and a truck. At least two other recently arrested agents are suspected of being drug cartel plants. As Customs and Border Protection continues its biggest hiring surge ever, investigators see infiltration as a growing threat.
By this fall, CBP expects to have more than 20,000 agents, twice what it had in 2001. “We’re seeing fewer reports by agents of being approached by traffickers,” says James Smith, of the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general’s office, which investigates corruption and misconduct cases. “We’re not just seeing disgruntled employees going bad. We’re seeing more cases where agents are already employed by the drug-trafficking and alien-smuggling organizations before they go to work for CBP.