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February 18, 2016Tucson, AZ, United StatesNarcotics, Professional Responsibility

Former CBP officer sentenced to 8 years for receiving bribes and drug trafficking

TUCSON, Ariz. – A former officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was sentenced Wednesday to 96 months in federal prison for receiving bribes and drug trafficking while serving in his official capacity.

Johnny Acosta, 38, of Douglas, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson to felony charges of conspiracy to import more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and accepting bribes as a public official. Acosta was previously employed as a CBP officer at the Douglas port of entry, where he began working in 2008.   

“Those in law enforcement capacities are supposed to uphold our nation’s laws, not willingly break them,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) Western Region Martin Suarez. “It’s always difficult when the actions of a single officer stain the honor and integrity of law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line to uphold the law. Guarding against illegal or unethical behavior is not an option; it’s an obligation we have to the people we serve.”

“As a port of entry inspector, Acosta served at the front line of America’s effort to keep illicit drugs from flowing into our country. He broke the public trust by succumbing to greed,” said U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo. “Corrupt officials like Acosta degrade the public’s faith that their government employees will faithfully execute the laws of the United States. It is a top priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners to vigilantly protect the integrity of our government. The successful prosecution of Acosta was due to the hard work, perseverance, and ingenuity by the Cochise Border Corruption Task Force, which includes the FBI, ICE’s OPR and HSI, CBP Internal Affairs, and the Douglas Police Department.”

“This sentencing demonstrates the continued commitment of the FBI and its law enforcement partners to identify and root out corrupt public officials. The FBI takes all allegations of corruption seriously as we hold our public officials to the highest levels of integrity,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas G. Price.

Acosta, a lifelong resident of Douglas, spent his entire career with CBP at the Douglas port of entry. The investigation led to the indictment of Acosta and five other individuals on an array of drug-related charges. On Oct. 20, 2015, Acosta was arrested by the FBI at the International Border in Nogales as he attempted to flee into Mexico to avoid prosecution.

Two of the co-defendants in the case have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the conspiracy to import marijuana into the United States. One of those defendants, Ricardo Peralta-Cuevas, was previously sentenced to 37 months in prison. The other defendant is pending sentencing. A third defendant is scheduled to enter a guilty plea Feb. 22. The remaining two defendants in the indictment remain fugitives.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Wallace H. Kleindienst.

Updated: 02/19/2016