Former Customs Agent Sentenced For Taking Bribes

North County Gazette (Chestertown, NY), March 29, 2006

TAMPA, FLA—A former special agent with the U.S. Customs Service, now known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has been sentenced to seven years and three months of imprisonment for receiving bribes.

Rafael Francisco Pacheco Jr., 35, Tampa pleaded guilty in December to 27 felony counts related to receiving bribes from a narcotic trafficker between December 1999 and June 2001 while he was employed as a special customs agent. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, five counts of receiving bribes as a public official, one count of misleading other law enforcement officers in an attempt to hinder a possible federal investigation of the drug trafficker who was paying him the bribes, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, six counts of money laundering, one count of obstruction of a federal grand jury proceeding, and two counts of making false statements to agents of the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the plea agreement, between December 1999, and June 2001, Pacheco received almost $18,000 in bribes from Fidencio Estrada , a citizen of Mexico, who was known to Pacheco to be a suspected narcotics trafficker and money launderer. Pacheco received money from Estrada to influence Pacheco to perform official acts in violation of his sworn duties, prosecutors said. Specifically, on at least nine occasions, Estrada paid bribes to Pacheco in return for and to influence officials acts by Pacheco.

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During the same time period that Pacheco received these bribes from Estrada, he unlawfully accessed the TECS and NCIC databases to obtain restricted information regarding Estrada and others. Pacheco thereafter provided this information from those restricted databases to Estrada.

On May 2, 2000, during the time period when he was receiving bribes from Estrada, Pacheco sent a memorandum on U.S. Customs letterhead to a Senior Customs Representative at the American Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico. The letter falsely indicated that Estrada was assisting the U.S. Customs Service in Tampa in criminal investigations. In fact, Estrada was never a source or informant for law enforcement. The letter requested the Senior Customs Representative to coordinate with the American Consulate in obtaining visas to assist Estrada’s wife and daughter in entering the United States. Based on this false information and representations made by PACHECO, visas were issued to Estrada’s wife and daughter on May 19, 2000, facilitating their entry into the United States.

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