SAN DIEGO–A U.S. Border Patrol Agent was sentenced in federal court to 70 months in prison for attempting to smuggle methamphetamine and cocaine while on duty in exchange for cash.
Agent Noe Lopez, 37, of Chula Vista, pleaded guilty in June of 2017 to attempted distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine. In November 2016, Lopez agreed to a plan with a confidential source whereby he would retrieve backpacks containing controlled substances from the north side of the United States/Mexico border fence while on duty with the Border Patrol. Lopez admitted that he agreed to transport the backpacks in his Border Patrol vehicle and deliver them to the source in exchange for thousands of dollars.
“This is a fitting sentence for a law enforcement agent who, instead of policing drug traffickers, joined them,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “Noe Lopez will pay a high price for betraying his fellow agents and his badge.”
“This case illustrates the power of our government agencies working together by bringing our resources, strengths, and intelligence to bear in order to root out corruption, wherever it may be,” FBI Special Agent in Charge John Brown said.
Today, this sentencing shows the results of one team working together to maintain the safety and security of our nation, particularly at our international border.”
“Any instance of criminal activity drives the motivation of all law enforcement officers to pursue justice,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Rodney S. Scott. “This is especially true when one of our own commits the criminal act. The arrest and subsequent guilty plea by former Border Patrol agent Noe Lopez tarnished the badge that our agents wear proudly and professionally represent every day. Noe Lopez violated the trust of the public and the law enforcement community he betrayed. Noe Lopez is the anomaly; he does not represent the professionalism, honor and distinction that Border Patrol agents exhibit everyday safeguarding our nation.”
On November 30, 2016, Lopez purchased three backpacks that would be used to transport the controlled substances and gave the backpacks to the source. They agreed that on December 6, 2016, Lopez would retrieve a backpack containing six pounds of methamphetamine while on duty with the Border Patrol and deliver the backpack to the source. Lopez told the source where to place the backpack containing methamphetamine on the north side of the United States/Mexico border.
According to Lopez’s admissions in his plea agreement, on Dec. 6, 2016, undercover DEA agents placed a backpack (one of the three backpacks purchased by Lopez) containing six pounds of a substance resembling methamphetamine near the prearranged location. Lopez drove to the location in his Border Patrol vehicle and retrieved the backpack. He returned to the Border Patrol Station and placed the backpack in his personal vehicle. At the conclusion of his Border Patrol work shift, Lopez met the source at a parking lot in Chula Vista, where Lopez gave the source the backpack containing what Lopez believed to be six pounds of methamphetamine.
On December 7, 2016, the source paid Lopez $3,000 for retrieving and delivering the purported methamphetamine. In a recorded conversation, Lopez discussed the area known as “Goat Canyon” where he was to be assigned the following day. Lopez said it was one of the areas he preferred to have the drugs dropped. “Honestly, the thing is that there aren’t—there aren’t any cameras. Nothing, nothing, nothing.”
This scenario was repeated on December 8, 2016, except the backpack purportedly contained seven kilograms of cocaine. Toward the end of Lopez’s shift, agents dropped seven kilograms of simulated cocaine in another backpack previously provided by Lopez. Lopez retrieved the backpack and placed it in his Border Patrol vehicle. At the end of his shift, Lopez transferred the backpack to his personal vehicle. Lopez delivered the backpack to the source. Agents later confirmed that the backpack contained the simulated cocaine that agents had dropped at the pre-determined location.
The following day, December 9, the source gave Lopez $7,000. In the recorded meeting, Lopez went over the drop location. Lopez made clear that the source should trust him to carry out the smuggling venture because: “If I’m saying it, it’s because I’m taking the risk. If I’m saying, ‘cross now,’ that means that I am taking the responsibility for them to cross.” In response to the source’s concern that his courier would get caught if he jumped over the fence and dropped the drug-laden backpack in the requested location, Lopez responded, “No, there is nobody that will report them. Me. That’s why I’m supposed to be there. There’s nobody—there are no cameras, there are no sensors-there’s nothing. There’s nothing. That’s why I’m telling you that this—this area is perfect.”
On Dec. 14, 2016, Lopez again switched duty areas with another agent so that he could be in a favorable area for a third smuggling event. Lopez then contacted the CS and indicated that he was scheduled to work in a favorable location for the drug drop. The drop did not occur, and Lopez was arrested at his border station.
Lopez was charged with distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine. If convicted, he faces life in prison and $10 million fine.