2 Border Patrol agents indicted for Smuggling

Two South Texas Border Patrol agents appeared in federal court Thursday on charges alleging they helped drug traffickers move their product across the U.S.-Mexico border.

A grand jury in Houston returned sealed indictments Dec. 1 against Leonel Morales, 30, of the Border Patrol’s Laredo sector and Salomon Ruiz, 34, of the Rio Grande Valley sector.

Both men made their initial appearances in federal courthouses in McAllen and Laredo on Thursday after the FBI arrested them Wednesday. They will remain in custody until their respective detention hearings next week, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Ruiz, of McAllen, faces four counts including taking about $14,000 in bribes to escort drugs between October 2006 and September 2008, conspiring to possess and distribute cocaine, possessing cocaine and aiding the possession of the drug.

Each of the drug charges carries a sentence of 10 years to life.

It was not immediately known Thursday if Ruiz or Morales had retained lawyers who could comment on their cases.

Border Patrol spokesman Lloyd Easterling said weeding out corrupt agents was something the agency took very seriously.

“We have several open investigations going on,” Easterling said.

The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs and the Border Patrol participated in the investigations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a prepared statement.

Morales, of Zapata County, faces three counts including taking about $9,000 in bribes to escort drugs between June and August of this year, conspiring to possess cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The FBI arrested Morales without incident late Wednesday.

“The recent arrest of Leonel Morales is a reminder of the sever consequences of succumbing to avarice and the promise of ill-gotten gains,” said Carlos X. Carrillo, the Laredo Sector’s chief patrol agent.