A courtroom sketch by Krentz Johnson depicts the June 21, 2013, sentencing of the Villareal brothers for their involvement in a human smuggling ring. From left to right: Zenia Gilg, Fidel Villarreal, Raul Villarreal, David Nick, Judge John Houston, Timothy Salel.
Two former Border Patrol agents have been sentenced to three decades in prison for their involvement in a human smuggling ring that brought hundreds of illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.
On Friday, a federal judge sentenced brothers Raul and Fidel Villareal to serve 35 and 30 years in prison, respectively. Raul is accused of leading the human smuggling ring, while Fidel is accused of actually managing the operation.
Prosecutors say the brothers both worked as Border Patrol agents while smuggling illegal immigrants into the U.S. from Mexico using their official Border Patrol vehicles between 2005 and 2006.
Back in August 2012, a federal jury in San Diego convicted the Villareal brothers of conspiracy to bring in illegal immigrants for financial gain, multiple counts of bringing in illegal immigrants for financial gain and conspiracy to launder money.
They were also convicted of receiving bribes by public officials.
The former Border Patrol agents were arrested on Oct. 18, 2008, in Tijuana, Mexico, along with additional suspects Armando Garcia and Claudia Gonzalez.
In August 2012, prosecutors revealed that Garcia would lead groups of illegal immigrants into the U.S. by walking them across the border at locations other than official ports of entry. The Villareal brothers would then pick up those illegal immigrants using their official Border Patrol vehicles and bring them into the country.
Garcia and Gonzalez also allegedly conspired to launder money with the brothers.
During his career as a Border Patrol agent, Raul Villareal served as a spokesman and public face of the agency. He was featured in public service announcements warning people about the dangers of illegal immigration and human smuggling.