A senior U.S. Customs inspector in South Texas is accused of conspiring to let truckloads of marijuana from Mexico pass through his lane.
An indictment unsealed today names Lizandro Martinez, who’s a 43-year-old agent at the Progreso International Bridge.
Prosecutors claim Martinez accepted money from smugglers—in return for not inspecting at least seven vehicles during the past year.
The Nov. 9 indictment followed a yearlong investigation that led to the seizure of more than 10,000 pounds of marijuana.
“We expect and depend upon our federal officers to abide by their oath to protect and defend our nation,” said United States Attorney Michael Shelby.
“When an official fails to act in accordance with his oath, and his action amounts to a violation of federal law, that official will be prosecuted. This indictment is the result of an intensive investigative effort of agents and officers of both federal and state agencies working together with my office to fulfill our joint commitment to fully investigate and prosecute those whose failure to the nation and the public constitutes a violation of federal law.”
Martinez and 43-year-old Roberto Dominguez are charged with conspiracy to import and possess with intent to distribute more than one thousand kilograms of marijuana and eight counts of illegally importing and/or possessing with intent to distribute marijuana.
Dominguez is accused of being the ringleader of an operation that hauled the loads to a “staging area” within one-thousand feet of Progreso High School.
There, the defendants allegedly transferred the drugs to other vehicles and brought them to stash houses around the Rio Grande Valley.
Six other people also were named in the indictment on charges that they participated in the ring.
Named in the indictment and arrested this morning are Teresa Ayala, 39, of Mission, Texas; Juan Enero Bazan, 48, of Donna, Texas; and Gustavo Marquez Huaracha, 32, of Mission, Texas.
These defendants and Inspector Lizandro Martinez appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos.
Previously charged by criminal complaint in October 2004, named in this indictment and presently in federal custody without bond are Robert Dominguez, 43, of Hidalgo, Texas, Maria Francisca Ortega, 46, of Progreso, Texas; Jose Cinco, 47, of Weslaco, Texas, and Jesus Rivera-Paz, 41, of Santa Maria, Texas.
These defendants will be scheduled for arraignment on Thursday, November 18.
Each defendant faces between 10 years and life in prison and up to a $4 million fine on the conspiracy charge. The drug charges carry penalties of up to life imprisonment as well as additional fines.