A U.S. Border Patrol agent appeared in court Thursday on charges that he picked up backpacks filled with drugs while on duty at the U.S.-Mexico border fence in exchange for cash, FBI officials said.
Noe Lopez, an agent working out of the Imperial Beach station, was arrested Wednesday and charged with attempted distribution of six pounds of methamphetamine, attempted distribution of seven kilograms of cocaine and bribery, according to a federal court complaint.
Lopez, who appeared in court for the first time Thursday, twice picked up and delivered backpacks dropped off for him at the San Diego County border fence, according to the complaint.
In both instances, the transactions were part of an undercover law enforcement sting, the complaint said. Lopez allegedly described his ability to smuggle narcotics into the U.S. to a confidential informant, providing the informant with specific details of his operation.
Lopez agreed to pick up backpacks filled with narcotics and transport them to safe locations north of the international border, for a fee, according to the complaint.
A woman who identified herself as Lopez's ex-wife told NBC 7 that the allegations surprised her.
“Everyone has money issues. We live in San Diego, but I mean nothing to this extreme for someone to risk their career," she said.
The court docket does not list an attorney for Lopez, The Associated Press reported.
Lopez, 36, has 10 years of service with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and has since been placed on non-duty/non-pay status pending the outcome of the investigation, CBP officials said in a statement.
"The U.S. Border Patrol stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of its mission. We do not tolerate misconduct on or off duty and will fully cooperate with all investigations of alleged unlawful conduct by our personnel," the statement read.
On December 6, Lopez allegedly picked up a backpack filled with what he believed to be six pounds of meth, then a backpack with cocaine on December 8.
The agent delivered the backpacks to a pre-determined location in San Diego in both instances, according to the complaint, and received $10,000 in cash in exchange.
Lopez additionally accepted bribes in exchange for helping with drug trafficking events, and ignored his official duty to enforce narcotics laws, according to the complaint.
“The U.S. Border Patrol is cooperating with all agencies involved in this investigation. Border Patrol agents are held to the highest standards, and we remain committed to performing our duties for the American people in the most professional way," Chief Patrol Agent Richard A. Barlow said in a statement.
Lopez will next appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jill L. Burkhardt on December 20 for a detention hearing.