San Diego/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 25, 2024
Former Chula Vista Border Patrol Agent Sentenced to 87 Months for Drug Smuggling and BriberySource: Google Street View

A former U.S. Border Patrol Agent, Hector Hernandez, was handed an 87-month prison sentence after admitting to attempted drug distribution and receiving bribes in a scheme to smuggle methamphetamine and unauthorized immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border, the Justice Department said.

Hernandez, age 55, from Chula Vista, CA, pleaded guilty in January and confessed to using his official status to facilitate illicit border crossings in exchange for cash payments, seeming to do so without consideration for the consequences. "In every instance, the U.S. Attorney’s Office stands ready to reinforce public trust in law enforcement," U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath said via the U.S. Attorney's Office, noting the damage caused by corruption within their ranks, "When that trust is undermined by criminal acts concealed behind a badge, it threatens both public safety and the integrity of our judicial system."

According to court documents, the former agent even gave Mexico-based smugglers a border tour to point out prime spots for sneaking in unauthorized immigrants and handed them intel about surveillance tech only known to those in the agency. On the fateful day of May 9, 2023, Hernandez was caught agreeing to transport a bag of drugs, which, unknown to him, contained fake methamphetamine along with the real deal supplied by an undercover federal agent, according to the DOJ.

Following his arrest, a residential search unveiled $131,717 in cash and some cocaine, with Hernandez admitting that over $110,000 of that money stemmed from his illicit activities. As part of his plea, Hernandez turned over his vehicle, the bulk of the cash, and his interest in his residence. His actions received no shortage of condemnation. "Agent Hernandez disgraced his badge when he chose to smuggle both drugs and people across the border," DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony Chrysanthis said through the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California press release, emphasizing the expectation of integrity for those in law enforcement.

Hernandez faced serious charges, including attempted distribution of methamphetamine – carrying a maximum life sentence with a 10-year mandatory minimum – and receiving bribes by a public official – with a maximum penalty of fifteen years, explains court records. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean Van Demark and Lawrence A. Casper, with the investigative efforts of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation sealing his fate.