ICE Agent Arrested

AP, March 20, 2006

EL PASO, Texas—A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent has been arrested after being accused of offering to drop charges against a Mexican immigration official jailed at a federal detention center in El Paso for $20,000, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Santiago Efrain Valle, 42, was arrested Friday on a charge of extortion after he allegedly accepted $20,000 from undercover agents to drop immigration charges against and change the risk classification for Francisco Javier Gutierrez, prosecutors said.

A lawyer for Gutierrez, who was arrested in January on an immigration violation in Alamogordo, N.M., told federal authorities about Valle’s offer earlier this month, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.

Leticia Zamarripa, an ICE spokeswoman in El Paso, said ICE agents working in the same job as Valle can’t drop immigration charges or change risk classifications at the detention center.

Valle, who was to appear before a federal judge Monday, has been with the federal immigration agency for about 10 years. He was placed on paid administrative leave after his arrest, Zamarripa said.

If convicted, Valle faces up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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