Border Agent Gets 5 Years for Smuggling

The Associated Press
Friday, July 28, 2006; 6:24 PM

SAN DIEGO -- A Border Patrol agent who admitted smuggling more than 100 illegal immigrants into the U.S. from Mexico, some of them in his government truck, was sentenced Friday to five years in prison.

Prosecutors had asked for about three years, but U.S. District Judge John A. Houston decided a stiffer punishment was required for 29-year-old Oscar Antonio Ortiz.

"You violated the sacred trust of your comrades," the judge said. "As a link in the chain, they depended on you."

The corruption case is one in a spate involving Border Patrol agents at a time when the agency is on a hiring spree.

Ortiz himself came to the United States illegally as a boy, and not long before he applied for a job with the Border Patrol, he was arrested and accused of trying to drive two illegal immigrants across from Mexico.

But his superiors did not know any of that when he applied, because he produced a fake birth certificate.

Ortiz was arrested last August and pleaded guilty to charges that included conspiracy to bring in illegal aliens and making a false claim to U.S. citizenship.

His attorney, Stephen White, said Ortiz's mother obtained the fake birth certificate when Ortiz was 3, and Ortiz said he grew up thinking he was a U.S. citizen.

"I was blind at the time I made my mistake of smuggling," Ortiz said. "I regret it."

© 2006 The Associated Press