U.S. Border Patrol Weekly Blotter: February 19 – February 25

Harlingen Texas – A U.S. Border Patrol agent was arrested by Cameron County Sheriff’s Department deputies after an investigation into allegations that he had a sexual relation with a 14-year-old girl.

Francisco Villanueva, 35, was charged Wednesday with soliciting sexual relations with a minor, which is a second-degree felony, and engaging in sexual acts with a minor, a third- degree felony, said Sheriff Omar Lucio.

Bond was set on Villanueva at $30,000 for soliciting a minor and $20,000 on the second charge.

“The investigation started on Feb. 1 when the mother . . . came in and spoke with our investigators,” Lucio said.

Villanueva, a Border Patrol agent for 8 years, had been a friend of the victim’s family for years and frequently would visit their home, the sheriff said.

According Lucio, the parents discovered the relationship when they found descriptive notes.

“Apparently the girl’s sisters had discovered a diary and some letters that described the type of relation and acts that were involved,” he said.

The teenager was taken to the Cameron County Children’s Advocacy Center where she underwent a forensic interview, which determined she had been involved in a sexual relationship with the agent, the sheriff said.

The agent was arrested at the Border Patrol station in Harlingen when he arrived for his shift, Lucio said.

“While sexual assaults are not unheard of, incidents like this tarnish all the men and women in law enforcement who are proud of their badge,” the sheriff said.
BP Agents gets away with raping illegal immigrant

EDINBURG — Witnesses called U.S. Border Patrol agent Alberto Garcia everything from a rapist and cheater to a corrupt law enforcement official over the course of his four-day trial.

On Thursday, though, an Hidalgo County jury called him something else entirely – a free man.

After less than two hours of deliberations, the panel cleared Garcia, 34, of McAllen, of charges that he sexually assaulted an illegal immigrant in the back of his patrol vehicle more than two years ago.

The woman had alleged he stopped her and a friend on Oct. 24, 2007, and then suggested he would arrest her if she didn’t have sex with him.

Garcia denied those claims, saying that he had consensual sex with his accuser that night and that the two had previously dated.

After hearing Thursday’s verdict, Garcia hugged his wife and wiped tears away from his eyes.

“He’s thankful to the jury,” defense attorney Rey Merino said. “He’s just happy this is all over. It was all a bunch of lies.”

Merino cited conflicting stories among state’s witnesses and a lack of physical evidence of sexual assault as the primary factors that led the jury to acquit his client.

The accuser – whose name has been withheld because she is purportedly the victim of a sex crime – testified Wednesday that she had never met Garcia before he pulled her over as she and a friend left a Las Milpas bar and he ordered her into his truck.

Garcia drove the woman to a secluded area, forced himself on her and then asked for her phone number, she told jurors.

But defense witnesses questioned that version of events Thursday, saying the purported victim had bragged before the incident about dating a Border Patrol agent. Afterward, she said she was going to be receiving $50,000 and her “papers” to stay in the country legally, they said.

Graciela Saenz Reyna, an Hidalgo County assistant district attorney, declined to comment after Thursday’s verdict but balked during closing statements at the suggestion the accuser had made up her story expecting to get something out of it.

“She had everything to lose by coming forward,” she said. “When this is over, she’s going back to Mexico.”

Reyna also questioned several instances in which Garcia’s family allegedly sought to influence the outcome of the case.

Judge Israel Ramon Jr. barred Garcia’s mother from the courtroom Wednesday after she approached a juror in the bathroom during a break in the trial. And Garcia’s father began dating a key state’s witness shortly after the rape allegations surfaced.

He denied Thursday that he had ever tried to convince her to change her testimony.

When asked what effect Garcia’s family might have had on the trial’s outcome, Reyna remained reluctant to reply.

“It’s hard to say,” she said. “We don’t really know.”

Garcia has remained suspended without pay from his job since the accusations against him first arose in 2007. Merino said his client has not yet decided whether to seek a return to work.