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CBP Agent Let Immigrants Into US for Sex, Cash: FBI

The accused U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer allegedly let undocumented immigrants into the county on several occasions in the past year



    US Customs and Border Protection Officer Jose Luis Cota is accused of receiving money and sexual favors to smuggle undocumented immigrants through his lane. NBC 7's Omari Fleming talks with the officer's nephew. (Published Friday, Sept. 9, 2016)

    A Customs and Border Protection officer let undocumented immigrants into the U.S. in exchange for sexual favors and money, according to the FBI. 

    Jose Luis Cota, 50, an officer at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, was arrested Wednesday. Cota faces several charges, including destruction, alteration or falsification of records, bribery of public official and receiving bribe by public official.

    Miriam Elizabeth Juarez-Herrera, 31, an undocumented immigrant, also was arrested, and charged with smuggling unlawful aliens into the U.S. from Mexico. 

    Authorities also arrested Gilberto Aguilar-Martinez, 31, a two-time convicted felon and previously deported undocumented immigrant. He faces a single charge of assisting with the alien smuggling operation.

    According to a filed complaint, Cota allowed Juarez-Herrera and Aguilar-Martinez and others to enter the country without official authorization on multiple occasions in the past year.

    FBI investigators say following the events on Nov. 3, 2015, Nov. 16, 2015, March 15, 2016 and Sept. 7, 2016, large sums of cash were deposited into his bank accounts. 

    Juarez-Herrera later admitted to smuggling undocumented immigrants through the San Ysidro Port of Entry in an interview with FBI agents, according to the complaint. 

    In exchange, she told agents, she paid him with monetary and sexual bribes, according to the complaint. 

    In a statement, CBP said Cota first began with the agency in August 2001. He is on unpaid administrative leave.

    "We do not tolerate corruption within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel. CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission, and the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe," a statement from the agency says.

    On Thursday, Cota, Juerez-Herrera and Aguilar-Martinez were booked into the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego.

    At their first appearance in federal court Thursday, the U.S. moved to detain all three due to their risk of flight, according to the FBI. It was not immediately clear if any of the three had attorneys. 

    The accused will next appear in court for a detention hearing on Sept. 14. A preliminary hearing is scheduled or Sept. 22.