Ex-CBP officer sentenced in bribery case

Man says he made ‘one mistake’ in 10 years; court disagrees

McALLEN — A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will serve 30 months in federal prison for taking a bribe in exchange for approving a land crossing permit, court records show.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Jose Javier “JJ” González, 38, of Mission to a 30-month prison sentence on Tuesday for, among other violations, accepting a $500 bribe and then approving an “I-94” border crossing permit, court records show.

González, a former CBP officer working in the Rio Grande Valley sector, was arrested May 25, 2017, and charged with federal bribery and fraud charges, according to court records.

During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, González, speaking on his own behalf, claimed that in his more than 10 years as a federal officer, “he had been a dedicated CBP officer” and had only made “one mistake,” according to a release from the Southern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“The court noted, however, that another individual had made similar allegations against González.”

One federal agent who spoke on behalf of the government said González betrayed his country and his fellow CBP officers.

“The defendant not only betrayed the citizens he was sworn to protect, he also betrayed the thousands of honest, hard-working CBP and other law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to keep us safe,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs said in the release. “The FBI is committed to working with our partners to pursue corruption wherever it lies. Together, we will ensure those who tarnish the badge are held accountable.”

The former federal officer was originally facing five counts of fraud activity connected with computers, which stems from his alleged role in accessing and obtaining information on five different federal employees from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

Ultimately, González struck a plea deal with government prosecutors last February that had him plead true to a federal bribery charge. In exchange, the government agreed to dismiss the remaining federal fraud charges, records show.

González’s alleged acts occurred between July 2015 and November 2016, according to the indictment against him.

“(González) intentionally exceeded authorized access to a computer, and thereby obtained information from a department or agency of the United States; namely, the defendant obtained information and records pertaining to … an individual from the Department of

Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” the indictment reads.

The court heard that during the aforementioned period, González exceeded his law enforcement access to conduct improper queries on the Treasury Enforcement Communications System that CBP officers use at ports of entry.

González ran queries of a Spanish music artist, a music promoter and another individual.

Despite seeing negative law enforcement information for their association to money laundering and drug trafficking, he continued to associate and communicate with them, the release states.

“In addition, González ran queries on another individual within days of his arrest at a San Diego port of entry for a drug trafficking offense and another individual who was subsequently arrested for conspiring to traffic fentanyl,” the release read. “González did not have a legitimate law enforcement purpose to query either person.”

The form González admitted to granting was the I-94, known as the arrival-departure record, and is issued by CBP officers to foreign visitors entering the U.S.

González, who had been in federal custody due to a pre-trial violation, will be allowed to self-surrender next month.

The defendant had originally been granted release shortly after the court approved a $30,000 bond on May 31, 2017. But his bond and release didn’t last long as Crane remanded González back into custody in late January 2018 upon news that he had tested positive for cocaine, court records show.

Earlier that month, Crane had approved a requested modification to González’s bond release conditions, allowing him to travel outside the Southern District of Texas for employment — another condition of his release.

González’s attorney, Edinburg-based O. Rene Flores, had successfully argued to have the terms of González’s release modified as González sought employment in Reagan County, which at the time was outside the area he was allowed to travel.

Crane approved the modification on Jan. 8, 2018, only to have U.S. Marshals arrest González eight days later on the pre-trial violation, court records show.

During that hearing, González denied using any illegal drugs or violating the terms of his condition, USAO officials said.

In addition to the 30-month prison sentence, González will be required to remain on supervised release for three years, and require him to participate in federal drug treatment program, court records show.