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August 11, 2020Tuscon, AZ, United StatesNarcotics

Ajo Border Patrol agent arrested and charged with drug trafficking

TUCSON, Ariz. – A Buckeye, Arizona, man was arrested Sunday on multiple counts of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. The charges resulted from an investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Southern Arizona Corruption Task Force, significantly assisted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, NATIVE Task Force in Sells, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Carlos Victor Passapera Pinott, 53, was charged by complaint, and had his initial appearance Monday before United States Magistrate Judge Leslie A. Bowman of the District of Arizona.

According to the complaint, Passapera is a U.S. Border Patrol agent assigned to the Tucson Sector Ajo Border Patrol Station. On Aug. 9, at approximately 3:15 a.m., Passapera left his residence and drove south to a remote area of the border west of the Lukeville Port of Entry. Passapera then drove to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where he loaded two duffel bags into another vehicle. Law enforcement agents stopped the driver of that vehicle after it left the airport, and searched the duffel bags. The bags contained multiple packages of substances that field tested positive for the characteristics of cocaine (21 kilograms), heroin (1 kilogram), and fentanyl (1 kilogram). The bags also contained approximately 350,000 pills. A sample from the pills field tested positive for the characteristics of fentanyl.

Law enforcement agents took Passapera into custody later that day while executing a search warrant at his residence. During the search, agents found approximately $329,000 in U.S. currency in Passapera’s residence, and an additional $40,000 in the vehicle Passapera used to transport the illegal narcotics.

Convictions for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years, and up to a $10,000,000 fine.

A criminal complaint is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tucson is handling the prosecution