5 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the accountability status is “Under Judicial Review”

July 3, 2023

A San Diego federal court indicted CBP Officer Leonard Darnell George on charges of “receiving bribes by a public official and two charges for conspiracy to traffic and distribute drugs. Prosecutors allege George allowed vehicles containing stashes of methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine and heroin to enter the U.S. from Mexico.” (Original link)

George was the lead defendant in a seven-person indictment on the drug charges, though he was accused separately of taking bribes and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The indictment alleges that George, known as “The Goalie,” began accepting bribes as early as October 2021 and continued to do so until at least June 2022.

If convicted, George faces a life sentence.

Prosecutors and court records indicated George had prior issues in the workplace including a May 6th incident leading to an administrative leave placement. The incident, according to San Diego Superior Court records, involved George alerting his CBP supervisor of self-harm. The San Diego police consequently detained him on a mental health hold, seized his firearms, and sought a gun violence restraining order that would prohibit him from purchasing firearms. In response to the incident, a CBP spokesperson noted that the agency was prohibited from discussing administrative actions, including discipline, as well as matters under litigation.

A second incident on record involved George and his brother, after one of their frequent trips to Mexico. According to court records and varying accounts, a dispute broke out at the San Ysidro Port of Entry after George said his brother left his wallet at home, and gave the officers a fake name and birth date for him, allegedly due to an arrest warrant for his brother. A verbal altercation broke out and the officers claimed George grew hostile and later threatened and intimidated them. The incident prompted four fellow CBP officers to seek harassment restraining orders against George, according to court records. Three of the four restraining orders were granted.

A third incident on record is from 2018, between the time he was hired to work for CBP and when he actually began his employment, where two of his colleagues filed a complaint with the local police department claiming George “threatened to hurt them”. George denied the incident and sought a restraining order against them. The incident resulted in George being placed on leave for three weeks and the judge denied his restraining order request.

—Green, Emily. “A Border Agent Was Just Charged With Taking Bribes from Cartels to Smuggle Drugs.” Vice, July 6, 2023. https://www.vice.com/en/article/5d9d48/a-border-agent-was-just-charged-with-taking-bribes-to-smuggle-drugs.

—Riggins, Alex. “CBP Officer Charged with Taking Bribes at Border Deemed Flight Risk in Drug Case – The San Diego Union-Tribune.” San Diego Union-Tribune, July 11, 2023. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/courts/story/2023-07-11/cbp-officer-george-detention-hearing.

—United States Department of Justice Southern District of California. “Customs and Border Protection Officer Indicted for Receiving Bribes, Allowing Drug-Laden Vehicles to Enter the U.S.,” July 3, 2023. https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdca/pr/customs-and-border-protection-officer-indicted-receiving-bribes-allowing-drug-laden.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Corruption, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Threat of Violence

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Charges Pending, Under Judicial Review

Victim Classification:

June 28, 2023

El Paso-based Border Patrol agent Fernando Castillo allegedly offered a migrant woman “papers” and the ability to stay in the United States in exchange for a $5,000 bribe, and stole $500 from her bag, according to court documents. (Original link)

The migrant woman reported the incident, eventually leading to Castillo being indicted by a grand jury on three counts of wire fraud, bribery by a public official and migrant smuggling following his arrest on June 28, according to federal court records.

— Ameer, Sana. “Report: Border Officer Asked for $5K Bribe to Let Migrant Stay in US.” Laredo Morning Times, August 2, 2023. https://www.lmtonline.com/news/article/border-patrol-agent-bribe-18275015.php.

— “Border Patrol Agent Charged with Bribery, Allegedly Offered Immigration Benefits to Migran.” KOMO, July 28, 2023. https://komonews.com/news/nation-world/border-patrol-agent-accused-of-offering-migrant-immigration-papers-for-5k-fernando-castillo-el-paso-texas-us-mexico-border-immigration.

— “Castillo Criminal Complaint.” U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, June 28, 2023. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FtH87RvUPwZLM4Kg5koKrwR8djWql0KM/view.

— Resendiz, Julian. “Border Agent Allegedly Offered Woman ‘Papers’ for $5,000.” BorderReport, July 27, 2023. https://www.borderreport.com/immigration/border-crime/border-agent-allegedly-offered-woman-papers-for-5000/.

— Weisfeldt, Sara, and Rosa Flores. “US Border Patrol Agent Indicted on Bribery and Smuggling Charges for Allegedly Offering Migrant Immigration ‘papers’ for $5,000.” CNN, August 1, 2023. https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/01/us/us-border-patrol-agent-bribery-charge-migrant-papers/index.html.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Corruption, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Charges Pending, Under Judicial Review

Victim Classification: Female, Single Adult

November 30, 2022

The Department of Justice reported the indictment of Aaron Mitchell, 27, on “three counts: a civil rights violation for sexually assaulting and kidnapping a minor victim, kidnapping a minor victim, and misleading state investigators.” (Original link) The Department’s statement, and prosecutors’ November 10 brief opposing Mitchell’s release from pretrial detention, identified Mitchell as being “employed as a Customs and Border Patrol Officer (CBPO)”—which most likely means an officer of CBP’s Office of Field Operations.

On April 25, 2022, Mitchell allegedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl in Arizona. (Original link) The victim, a citizen of Mexico, was on her way to school in Arizona.

Mitchell, wearing police attire, told the girl he was a police officer and asked to see her documents. After she complied, Mitchell ordered her to get in his car, saying they needed to go to the police station. But Mitchell did not drive her to the police station—he drove her an hour away to his apartment.

After finishing an in-custody interview with Mitchell, Douglas, Arizona police left their video recording equipment on. According to the prosecution’s document, “That video recorder caught Mitchell muttering to himself, ‘I cannot believe this s—. F—ing little b——. B—— is claiming rape. That’s so f—ing crazy. That’s crazy, man. She better hope I don’t get out of here.’”

Mitchell had served as a CBP officer for 10 months at the time of his arrest.

— U.S. Department of Justice. “Former Customs and Border Protection Agent Indicted for Federal Civil Rights Violation for Sexually Assaulting and Kidnapping a Minor,” November 30, 2022. <https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/former-customs-and-border-protection-agent-indicted-federal-civil-rights-violation-sexually>.

— Restaino, Gary M., Christina M. Cabanillas, Carin C. Duryee, Kristen Clarke, Erin H. Flynn, and Brant S. Levine. “U.S. v. Mitchell No. 22-10268.” U.S. Department of Justice, November 10, 2022. <https://www.justice.gov/crt/case-document/file/1551906/download>.

— Siemaszko, Corky. “Former CBP Agent Accused of Sexually Assaulting a Minor Was Caught on Video Threatening His Accuser.” NBC News, December 7, 2022. <https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/former-cbp-agent-accused-sexually-assaulting-minor-was-caught-video-th-rcna60222>.

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Sexual Assault or Harassment, Threat of Violence, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Charges Pending, Under Judicial Review

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Female, Mexico, Sexual Abuse Victim

April 24, 2021

Francisco Javier Vallejo, an off-duty Border Patrol agent, struck a bicyclist with his car and fled the scene. The cyclist, Humberto Torres Iracheta, 71, was found dead, face down in the roadway.

Vallejo eventually informed his CBP supervisors that he had hit a cyclist. The Rio Grande Valley Monitor reported, “It’s unclear, however, how long it took Vallejo to report the collision.” Vallejo was arrested, the Monitor continued, “and charged with accident involving death, a second-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Vallejo was released the following day on a $100,000 bond.”

— Valerie Gonzalez and Mark Reagan, “Border Patrol agent fled deadly collision with bicyclist; later reported the death” (Hidalgo: MyRGV News, April 26, 2021) https://myrgv.com/local-news/2021/04/26/border-patrol-agent-fled-deadly-collision-with-bicyclist-later-reported-the-death/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Under Judicial Review, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: U.S. Citizen or Resident

November 18, 2020

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) expelled to Guatemala 32 unaccompanied children who had been encountered at the border. The expulsion came hours after U.S. Federal District Judge Emmet Sullivan had ordered a halt to the Trump administration’s practice of expelling unaccompanied children under the Title 42 pandemic order.

On January 19, 2021—the Trump administration’s final day—DHS officials recognized before the court that the expulsion violated Judge Sullivan’s order, “adding that they will begin the process of getting the group back to apply for asylum,” BuzzFeed reported.

— Hamed Aleaziz, “US Officials Admitted They Violated A Court Order When They Expelled 32 Immigrant Children To Guatemala” (United States: BuzzFeed, January 19, 2021) https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/hamedaleaziz/us-officials-violated-court-order-immigrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): DHS, ICE

Event Type(s): Expulsion of Unaccompanied Minor, Inappropriate Deportation, Violation of Court Order

Last Known Accountability Status: Under Judicial Review

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Unaccompanied Child