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Border agent arrested in smuggling case

Times Staff Writer

A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been arrested on suspicion of being part of a Tijuana-based trafficking organization that smuggled illegal immigrants into Orange County, U.S. law enforcement sources said.

Because the indictment was not scheduled to be unsealed until this morning, few details were available. Robert Harvey, a Border Patrol spokesman, confirmed that an agent was arrested last week. According to sources, the agent is Jose Olivas, a 10-year veteran.

The agent’s arrest is the latest in a sharp jump in corruption cases involving local and U.S. law enforcement agencies along the border.

Since 2004, about a dozen of the 200 cases nationwide have involved California-based U.S. customs officers or Border Patrol agents.

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Olivas was allegedly part of a ring that included a Colombian-born smuggler who was arrested last week. That man, James Fierro Herrera, was pulled over by federal agents in Oceanside with three illegal immigrants in his vehicle, according to the criminal complaint.

The three, who paid $2,100 to $2,800 each, had been smuggled across the border with fake documents and in the trunks of vehicles, according to the complaint. Fierro allegedly said he was taking them to Santa Ana.

Fierro’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

Olivas’ role in the organization involved letting the smugglers know when the San Clemente Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 5 would be closed, so the illegal immigrants could be brought across safely, according to a source.

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Olivas is scheduled to be arraigned this morning.

richard.marosi@latimes.com


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