Susan Carroll, Arizona Republic (Phoenix), Mar. 25
TUCSON — The top public safety official and a municipal police officer in the Mexican border community of Sonoyta were charged in federal court Thursday with trying to bribe a U.S. law enforcement official to smuggle loads of marijuana across the U.S.-Mexican border.
Ramon Robles-Cota, head of public safety for the town south of Lukeville, is accused of approaching a U.S. federal agent in January to broker a deal to smuggle marijuana through southern Arizona, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Tucson. In a series of meetings and negotiations outlined in court documents, Robles-Cota reportedly tried to enlist the agent to join the payroll of a Mexican cartel that ran more than 60 loads of marijuana across the Arizona-Sonora border each month.
In the Sonoyta case, authorities allege Robles-Cota first approached the agent in January in Sonoyta, about 150 miles south of Phoenix, and started pressing for a deal. According to court records, Robles-Cota, 29, and Julio Cesar Lozano-Lopez, 28, were working for an unidentified cartel that wanted the U.S. federal agent to clear the border near Menager Dam, east of Lukeville, for two hours, according to the complaint.
The court documents outlined plans to send in three to four vehicles, including a tractor-trailer, full of marijuana every few minutes, in exchange for paying the federal agent $25,000 per load.
The court records state the two men came from Sonoyta to Tucson on March 15, and Robles-Cota gave the agent a shopping bag filled with $80,020 as an advance.