EL PASO, Texas - A federal judge sentenced a former U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employee to 20 years in federal prison Aug. 26 after she pleaded guilty to drug smuggling, alien smuggling and official corruption charges.
The sentence was the culmination of an investigation by U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and CBP Internal Affairs.
Martha Alicia Garnica, 43, was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge David Briones, who also ordered her to pay a $5,000 fine, and be placed under supervised release for four years after she completes her prison term.
Garnica, a former CBP technician and CBP officer, pleaded guilty May 14 to all of the charges returned by a federal grand jury on Feb. 3, including conspiring to import more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of marijuana into the United States, conspiring to smuggle illegal aliens, bribing a public official and importing 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 Oct. 1, 2009 until Oct. 11, 2009, Garnica conspired to smuggle illegal aliens into the United States from Mexico.
- On Oct. 11, 2009, Garnica offered a $500 bribe to a CBP officer to allow an illegal alien to be smuggled into the United States.
- On Nov. 7, 2009, Garnica paid a $3,500 bribe to a CBP officer to allow a controlled substance to be imported into the United States.
- On Nov. 17, 2009, Garnica offered a $1,500 bribe to a CBP officer to allow a controlled substance to be imported into the United States.
- On Nov. 8, 2009, Garnica knowingly imported marijuana into the United States from Mexico.
Garnica's co-defendants are serving federal prison terms for their roles in the smuggling ring.
On July 7, 2010, Carlos Francisco Ramirez-Rosalez, a Mexican national living illegally El Paso, was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison followed by four years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to import over 100 kilograms of marijuana into the United States and to paying a $3,500 bribe to an undercover officer.
On June 4, 2010, Edgar Ely Meraz of El Paso was sentenced to 24 months in prison and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service after pleading guilty to importing about 162 pounds of marijuana into the United States.
On July 20, 2010, Arturo Leal Rosalez of Cd. Juarez, Mexico, was sentenced to 24 months in prison after pleading guilty to importing about 162 pounds of marijuana into the United States.
The final co-defendant, Hugo Alberto Flores Colmenero, was murdered Feb. 24, 2010 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Juanita Fielden, Western District of Texas, prosecuted this case.