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U.S. Customs Agent Took Bribes in Exchange for Allowing Drug-Filled Vehicles Through Border, Spent Cash at Strip Club

Former Border Agent Convicted of Receiving Bribes for Drug Smuggling
Source: Unsplash

Leonard Darnell George was convicted of accepting bribes to allow illegal drugs into the country.

Jun. 23 2024, Published 10:02 a.m. ET

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A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer was convicted recently of accepting bribes to allow vehicles full of illegal drugs to pass into the United States, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California announced.

Leonard Darnell George was convicted of receiving bribe by public official, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison; conspiracy to import controlled substances, which carries a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison up to a maximum of life; and two counts of bringing in certain aliens for financial gain, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

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Witnesses testified at his trial that George agreed to allow vehicles carrying methamphetamine and other illicit drugs to pass through his lane at a border crossing in late 2021.

He would notify members of two separate drug trafficking organizations "when he was at work, what lane he was on, and that they had one hour to reach his lane."

In February 2022, a law enforcement alert flagged a suspected drug smuggling vehicle entering George's lane, and he was forced to send the vehicle for secondary inspection, which revealed some 222 pounds of methamphetamine.

But he allowed a second vehicle affiliated with a trafficking organization, filled with over 200 pounds of drugs, to pass through his lane right behind the flagged vehicle.

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The next day, George received around $13,000 for allowing the vehicle through, and immediately purchased a 2020 Cadillac CT5 as a gift for an associate of one of the trafficking organizations.

For the next six months, George continued to allow vehicles carrying drugs and undocumented individuals to enter the U.S. through his lane, with investigators identifying approximately 19 illegal crossings through George's lane affiliated with the trafficking organizations.


According to George's text messages, he agreed to allow vehicles through his lane for $17,000 per vehicle, $34,000 for two vehicles, $51,000 for three vehicles, or $65,000 for four vehicles. On one occasion in June 2022, he received $68,000 for allowing four vehicles from one organization to enter his lane.

In addition to purchasing cars and jewelry with the illegal proceeds, a witness testified that George regularly traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, where he would frequent the Hong Kong Gentlemen’s Club, standing on the second-level balcony and throwing cash over the dancers below, "showering" them with money.

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A photograph was submitted into evidence that showed one of George's trafficking associates taking a selfie in George's CBP uniform jacket.

“With this verdict, the jury sent a clear message to anyone considering trading in their badge for cash. Abandoning the integrity of the uniform for the conspiracy of drug trafficking is a path to a criminal conviction," U.S. Attorney Tara K. McGrath said in a statement.

“As persons in positions of public trust, we are relied upon to serve and protect the American people,” said FBI San Diego Special Agent in Charge, Stacey Moy. “We also rely on each other to uphold that sacred oath. Should that oath be violated, the FBI and its law enforcement partners remain steadfast in our pursuit of justice, even if it means holding ourselves accountable.”

George's sentencing was scheduled for Sept. 13.

TMX contributed to this report.


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