Former CBP agent pleads guilty to drug smuggling charges

Margarita Crispin, the Customs and Border Protection officer arrested for allowing loads of marijuana to pass through her bridge lanes unchecked for four years, pleaded guilty to drug charges Monday morning and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Crispin, 32, also agreed to forfeit a 2002 GMC Denali, $16,000 in cash, jewelry, and any other asset up to $5 million, officials said.

Court documents showed Crispin used her position as a CBP officer in El Paso to allow vehicles loaded with marijuana to pass through, without checking them.

This activity allegedly went on from about June 2003, just months after she was hired in March 2003, until about July 2007, when she was indicted in El Paso for conspiracy to import a controlled substance.

It was a stalled van, conspicuously filled with marijuana, as well as that her odd behavior, that attracted drew attention to her, according to court testimony.

On May 31, 2006, CBP officers went to check out a broken- down van, which had been abandoned in traffic at the Paso Del Norte Bridge. Inside, 5,769 pounds of marijuana were stacked floor to ceiling, an ICE agent testified.

The blatant nature of the smuggling attempt prompted the agency to look into the possible corruption of bridge inspectors.

Crispin first pleaded not guilty.

Monday, she changed her plea to guilty of one count of conspiracy to import more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana into the United States.

“We rely on the integrity of federal officers to enforce the laws and ensure the security of our borders,” U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton said after the sentencing Monday. “Agents who join forces with drug smugglers to subvert border inspections undermine border security in the most treacherous way. My office is committed to strengthening our border and will seek out, prosecute and punish those officers who betray their office and our trust.”