Border Patrol Officer Martha Alicia Garnica “La Estrella” Serving 20 Years in Federal Prison for Drug Corruption

[Martha Alicia] Garnica was handsomely rewarded for helping the drug cartels, taking lavish European vacations, living in an expensive home and driving two Hummers.

KFOX 14:  CBP Technician, Two Others Arrested In Drug Corruption Case (Nov 19 2009)

Three people are behind bars Thursday on charges of conspiring to import marijuana.

The arrested are U.S. Customs and Border Protection technician Martha Alicia Garnica, Carlos Francisco Ramirez-Rosales, and Edgar Ely Meraz.

The indictment alleges the three conspired to import more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, attempted bribery of federal agents to smuggle undocumented immigrants into the United States, and allow for drugs to be brought into the U.S. earlier this year.

U.S. Department of Justice Press Release:  CBP Technician and Two Other Defendants Arrested in El Paso in Drug / Official Corruption Case (Nov 19 2009)

… today announced the arrests and federal grand jury indictment of 43-year-old U.S. Customs and Border Protection technician Martha Alicia Garnica, 40-year-old Carlos Francisco Ramirez-Rosalez and 23year-old Edgar Ely Meraz for conspiring to import marijuana into the United States.
The indictment also charges: Garnica with one count of conspiracy to smuggle undocumented aliens, two counts of bribery of a public official and one count of importation of a controlled substance; Ramirez, one count of conspiracy to smuggle an undocumented alien, one count of bribery of a public official and one count of importation of a controlled substance; and Meraz, one count of importation of a controlled substance.
According to the indictment, since April 2009, the defendants have allegedly conspired to import into the United States from Mexico more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. The indictment further alleges that from October 1, 2009 until October 11, 2009, Garnica and Ramirez conspired to smuggle in undocumented aliens into the United States from Mexico. The indictment also alleges that on October 11, 2009, Garnica offered a $500 bribe to a United States Customs and Border Protection officer to allow an undocumented alien to be smuggled into the United States as well as offering a $3,500 bribe to a United States Customs and Border Protection officer on November 7, 2009, to allow a controlled substance to be imported into the United States. Finally, the indictment alleges that on November 8, 2009, Garnica, Ramirez and Meraz knowingly imported marijuana into the United States from Mexico.
In the indictment, the government is also seeking a monetary judgement in the amount of $1,000,000 as well as the criminal forfeiture of any property used to further their illegal schemes.

El Paso Times:  Suspect in drug case slain in Juárez (Apr 6 2010)

Federal prosecutors last week dismissed the indictment against Hugo Alberto Flores Colmenero, a U.S. citizen. They said they discovered that he died Feb. 24.

Flores Colmenero died in a violent attack in central Juárez. Hitmen shot him 14 times, Chihuahua state officials said. They did not release his name to the media, but family members later identified him.

Flores Colmenero was the fifth suspect identified in the case of Customs and Border Protection employee Martha Alicia Garnica. Flores Colmenero had faced charges of conspiracy to smuggle more than 200 pounds of marijuana from Mexico into the United States.

Federal officers arrested Garnica, 43, after raiding her East Side home in November. She faces charges of drug trafficking, smuggling undocumented immigrants and bribing a public official. Garnica remains in jail. U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Mesa denied her bond in November.

U.S. Department of Justice Press Release:  Former CBP Technician Enters Guilty Plea in Drug / Official Corruption Case (May 14 2010)

United States Attorney John E. Murphy announced that in El Paso, 43-year-old former U.S. Customs and Border Protection technician Martha Alicia Garnica faces a minimum of five years in federal prison after pleading guilty this morning to drug, alien smuggling and official corruption charges.
Appearing before United States District Judge David Briones this morning, Garnica pleaded guilty to all of the charges returned by a federal grand jury on February 3, 2010, namely, conspiring to import over 100 kilograms of marijuana into the United States, conspiracy to smuggle undocumented aliens, three counts of bribery of a public official and one count of importation of a controlled substance.
According to the indictment:

  • Since April 2009, Garnica conspired with others to import into the United States from Mexico more than 100 kilograms of marijuana.
  • From October 1, 2009 until October 11, 2009, Garnica conspired to smuggle in undocumented aliens into the United States from Mexico.
  • On October 11, 2009, Garnica offered a $500 bribe to a United States Customs and Border Protection officer to allow an undocumented alien to be smuggled into the United States.
  • On November 7, 2009, Garnica paid a $3,500 bribe to a United States Customs and Border Protection officer to allow a controlled substance to be imported into the United States.
  • On November 17, 2009, Garnica offered a $1,500 bribe to a United States Customs and Border Protection officer to allow a controlled substance to be imported into the United States.
  • On November 8, 2009, Garnica knowingly imported marijuana into the United States from Mexico.

Sentencing for Garnica is scheduled for July 23, 2010. Garnica’s co-defendants are awaiting sentencing after entering guilty pleas. On April 30, 2010, Carlos Francisco Ramirez-Rosalez, a Mexican National living illegally El Paso, pleaded guilty to conspiring to import over 100 kilograms of marijuana into the United States and to paying a $3,500 bribe to a United States Customs and Border Protection officer. Ramirez-Rosalez is scheduled for sentencing on July 15, 2010. On March 26, 2010, Edgar Ely Meraz of El Paso pleaded guilty to importing approximately 162 pounds of marijuana into the United States. On April 29, 2010, Arturo Leal Rosalez of Juarez, Mexico, pleaded guilty to the same offense. Meraz is scheduled for sentencing on June 4, 2010; Rosalez, on July 13, 2010. Prior to arrest, the final co-defendant–Hugo Alberto Flores-Colmenero–was murdered in Juarez on February 24, 2010.

U.S. Department of Justice Press Release:  Former CBP Technician Sentenced in Drug / Official Corruption Case (Aug 26 2010)

United States Attorney John E. Murphy announced that in El Paso, 43-year-old former U.S. Customs and Border Protection technician Martha Alicia Garnica was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on drug, alien smuggling and official corruption charges.
In addition, Senior United States District Judge David Briones ordered that Garnica pay a $5,000 fine and be placed under supervised release for a period of four years after completing her prison term.

L.A. Times:  U.S. border officer gets 20 years for corruption, smuggling drugs (Sept 1 2010)

A former U.S. Customs employee is headed to federal prison for 20 years after being convicted of corruption and smuggling charges in El Paso, Texas. Martha Alicia Garnica, 43, a former Customs and Border Protection officer, conspired to smuggle marijuana and undocumented migrants into the United States and bribed or attempted to bribe fellow officers …

Free Republic:  U.S. border officer gets 20 years for corruption, smuggling drugs (Sept 1 2010)

Washington Post:  Woman’s links to Mexican drug cartel a saga of corruption on U.S. side of border  (Sept 12 2010)

She lived a double life. At the border crossing, she was Agent Garnica, a veteran law enforcement officer. In the shadows, she was “La Estrella,” the star, a brassy looker who helped drug cartels make a mockery of the U.S. border.

Martha Garnica devised secret codes, passed stacks of cash through car windows and sketched out a map for smugglers to safely haul drugs and undocumented workers across the border. For that she was richly rewarded; she lived in a spacious house with a built-in pool, owned two Hummers and vacationed in Europe.

For years, until an intricate sting operation brought her down in late 2009, Garnica embodied the seldom-discussed role of the United States in the trafficking trade …  (continue reading at the Washington Post)

Washington Post:  Cartel corruption, on the U.S. side of the border  (Sept 12 2010)

Photo Gallery to accompany the above Washington post article.

Washington Post:  La Estrella’s reach  (Sept 12 2010)

Until 2009, Martha Garnica, a veteran law enforcement officer and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent, coordinated drug and human trafficking operations through border stations of El Paso. Known as “La Estrella” ( the star ) to the Ciudad Juarez-based crime syndicate La Linea, Garnica unwittingly recruited another CBP agent working undercover for law enforcement, code-named “Angel.” Some of Garnica’s co-conspirators … (Illustration to accompany the above Washington post article)

Tampa Bay Times:  Martha Garnica’s case reveals how drug cartels get help from the U.S. (Sept 13 2010)

Sydney Morning Herald:  A double agent helps net corrupt immigration official  (Sept 20 2010)

Examiner:  Another CBP official accused of drug smuggling (Oct 20 2011)

Last year, in a particularly salacious case, Texas-based Customs agent Martha Alicia Garnica pled guilty to importing more than two hundred pounds of marijuana. Garnica used her position within CBP to teach Mexican criminals how to effectively smuggle drugs and people into the country, including mapping out routes where smugglers could safely cross the border. Garnica was handsomely rewarded for helping the drug cartels, taking lavish European vacations, living in an expensive home and driving two Hummers.

 

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