San Diego/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on June 13, 2024
Disgraced Border Officer Convicted: Smuggled Drugs for Bribes and Flaunted Gains with Luxury Cadillac in San Diego ScandalSource: Google Street View

In a stark reminder of the corruptibility within the ranks of law enforcement, former U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Leonard Darnell George has been convicted by a federal jury of multiple charges related to accepting bribes and facilitating the illicit entry of drugs and unauthorized individuals into the United States, the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego reported. The conviction occurred late Monday, June 10.

During the trial, witnesses detailed how George permitted vehicles loaded with methamphetamine to cross into the U.S. at his discretion, signaling to members of two separate criminal organizations when he would be working. An incident in February 2022, revealed approximately 222 pounds of methamphetamine in a vehicle directed to secondary inspection while under George's watch. Text messages exhibited during the trial showed George's financial gain, including a specific instance where he received about $13,000 for a vehicle he cleared — after which, George lavishly bought a 2020 Cadillac CT5 for an associate to whom he presented the vehicle in Ensenada on Valentine’s Day.

Over six months, evidence indicated approximately 19 border crossings linked to the criminal factions George was involved with. In a demonstrative message regarding the trade-off between duty and corruption, U.S. Attorney Tara K. McGrath expressed, "With this verdict, the jury sent a clear message to anyone considering trading in their badge for cash". McGrath's statement outlined the gravity of George’s breach of trust and its consequences on the integrity of law enforcement, as per the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego.

The consequences of George's actions are further amplified by the fallout within the agency's reputation and the public's trust. Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego, Chris Davis, noted according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego, "There is no place in law enforcement for those who dishonor their badge and oath to protect our communities and our country." The strong collaborative efforts of various law enforcement branches, including the FBI, CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility, and Homeland Security Investigations, underscored the urgency and seriousness with which this case was pursued.

Scheduled for sentencing on September 13, George faces a maximum of 15 years for receiving a bribe as a public official, a mandatory minimum of 10 years to life in prison for conspiracy to import controlled substances, and up to 10 years for bringing in aliens for financial gain. The trial was led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bianca Calderon-Peñaloza and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Kimura.