Pubdate: Thu, 22 Jun 2017
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2017 Los Angeles Times
Author: Dana Littlefield


A U.S. Border Patrol agent pleaded guilty Thursday to smuggling
backpacks he believed contained drugs across the border.

Appearing in a federal courtroom in San Diego, Noe Lopez pleaded
guilty to attempted distribution of methamphetamine and attempted
distribution of cocaine.

He faces a possible minimum sentence of 10 years for each of the two
counts and a maximum penalty of life in federal prison.

His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 8 before U.S. District
Judge Dana Sabraw.

Lopez, a 10-year Border Patrol veteran who worked out of the Imperial
Beach station, was arrested Dec. 14 as a result of a two-month
undercover sting.

According to court documents, Lopez struck up a friendship with a man
he met at a party and later began communicating with through an online
messaging app. During their conversations, Lopez bragged about how he
could smuggle drugs left at strategic points along the border fence
and told the man he would do it for a fee.

The man relayed this information to the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration and became a confidential source. He cooperated with
authorities to help carry out two transactions with Lopez.

In October, Lopez took the man on a driving tour of the border fence
to show the best locations where the drugs could be dropped,
authorities said.

About a month later, Lopez told the confidential source that he would
accept $500 per kilogram of methamphetamine and $1,000 per kilogram of
cocaine he helped pick up and deliver into the United States,
according to the FBI.

On Dec. 6 and 8, Lopez agreed to pick up backpacks at sites along the
border fence while on duty, according to the complaint. Undercover
agents placed the backpacks -- loaded with fake drugs -- at the sites.

Lopez then picked them up, transported them in his personal vehicle,
and delivered them to the source after work, authorities said.
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