December 15, 2014
Contact: Wendell Campbell
Phone Number: (713) 693-3000
CBP Officer Arrested For Allowing Drugs Through Port Of Entry
BROWNSVILLE, Texas - Jose Luis Zavala, a 38-year-old resident of Brownsville, has been charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1000 kilograms of marijuana and bribery of a public official, announced Drug Enforcement (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, Houston Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Zavala has been employed for the past seven years as a Customs and Border (CBP) officer assigned to the Brownsville field of operations.
Zavala was arrested Friday afternoon and is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan at 10:00 this morning.
According to the charges, Zavala 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, according to the complaint. 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 allegedly 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, according to the allegations.
The investigation led to the discovery of text messages sent to Zavala’s personal cell phone that allegedly show the coordination of payment to Zavala for allowing shipments of marijuana to enter the country.
If convicted, Zavala faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison for the drug conspiracy as well as a maximum of 15 years for bribery.
The charges are 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.
A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.