Ex-CBP officer sentenced in smuggling attempt

McALLEN — A now former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer was sentenced to two years in federal prison for his role in an attempt to allow a previously deported man into the country.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Sabas Salinas to 24 months in federal prison in connection with an August 2017 attempt to allow a Reynosa man, who did not have legal permission to be in the country, to bypass the port of entry without legal status, according to a criminal complaint.

Salinas will also serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison sentence.

Salinas, of Weslaco, was arrested Sept. 14, a month after he attempted to allow two people to pass through the lane assigned to him at the Progreso port of entry — one of whom was a Reynosa man who had been previously deported and no longer had legal status to be in the United States, the complaint states.

The ex-CBP officer originally pleaded not guilty to two counts of bringing in and harboring aliens but decided to change his plea in November to guilty to a single count of bringing in and harboring aliens — in exchange for the guilty plea federal prosecutors agreed to dismiss the second charge, court records show.

The 55-year-old man admitted that on Aug. 14, 2017, while assigned as a CBP officer to the Progreso Port of Entry he attempted to conduct the initial inspection of a vehicle driven by Juana Sifuentes-Villagomez, 48, a permanent resident from Donna, and her passenger, a 46-year-old man who claimed to be Juan Lopez Rodriguez, 46, of San Juan, the complaint states.

But before Salinas could let the two through, Salinas’ CBP supervisor decided to place someone else in charge of conducting the inspection after realizing the vehicle Sifuentes-Villagomez was driving was previously driven by Salinas to travel from Mexico into the country.

“As (the other CBP officer) approached the booth, he saw Salinas that the CBP computer screen reflected that Salinas had already cleared the vehicle for entry and had only documented one occupant for the vehicle even though (the CBP officer) had observed two occupants in the vehicle,” the complaint states.

During the inspection Sifuentes-Villagomez told the other CBP officer that she and her passenger, who was later identified as Asiano Uresti-Segundo, 46, of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, were headed to McAllen. It was later determined he had been previously deported.

Questioned about the truck the two were using to cross the border, Salinas admitted the truck was his and had lent it to the Sifuentes-Villagomez, the complaint states.

Sifuentes-Villagomez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens within the United States and is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 28. Uresti-Segundo entered a guilty plea to unlawfully attempting to enter the country after being previously removed, the news release states.