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Former CBP Officer Sentenced for Allowing Drugs Through Port of Entry

OCT 08 (BROWNSVILLE, Texas) - A former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer from Brownsville has been sentenced for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1000 kilograms of marijuana, announced Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, Houston Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Jose Luis Zavala, 38, pleaded guilty March 3, 2015.

Today, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ordered he serve 78 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay a $7,500 fine.

Zavala had been employed for eight years as a CBP officer assigned to the Brownsville field of operations. 

At the time of his guilty plea, Zavala admitted he allowed vehicles loaded with marijuana to enter the United States from Mexico in exchange for money. On Nov. 19, 2014, Zavala was working the Gateway Port of Entry when a van attempted to enter the United States through the inspection lane manned by Zavala. The driver presented a U.S. Passport and the van was randomly selected for an intensive inspection, a decision not made or controlled by Zavala. The driver then abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot to Mexico. The van was carrying 1362 Kilograms of marijuana that was not hidden or disguised as legitimate cargo. Zavala had entered into an agreement with co-conspirators and intended to allow the vehicle and marijuana into the United States.

He will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The charges were the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Homeland Security - Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Hagen is prosecuting the case.

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