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California border officer gets prison time for helping smugglers

California border officer gets prison time for helping smugglers
Lorne "Hammer" Jones, 50, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for helping smugglers at the Otay Mesa and San Ysidro (indicated above) border crossings. (Bing)

SAN DIEGO — A veteran U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer was sentenced Monday to 7½ years in federal prison after being convicted of helping smugglers bring marijuana and undocumented immigrants into the U.S. for a decade.

Lorne "Hammer" Jones, 50, a former Marine, received as much as $500,000 from smugglers, allowing a lavish lifestyle that included a boat, trips to Las Vegas and season tickets to San Diego Chargers games, prosecutors said.

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Jones had been an inspector since 1994 and worked at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa crossings.

"Lorne Jones allowed greed to destroy everything his badge represents," said U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy.

Prosecutors used a database that tracks people and vehicles crossing the border to argue that Jones knew for years that large vehicles operated by drug trafficking organizations were passing through the lanes where he was an inspector.

Jones volunteered to work overtime shifts so he could wave through vans jammed with undocumented immigrants and drugs, and trucks full of marijuana, prosecutors said.

Jones' involvement in the conspiracy became known when a van stuffed with four tons of marijuana was detected at the San Ysidro crossing by another inspector and a pot-sniffing dog, according to testimony. Jones was supposed to wave the van through the crossing, but the detection was made before the van reached his position.

Among the prosecution witnesses was a former colleague of Jones' who testified that the pair was helping smugglers in the early 2000s. The colleague has since served four years in prison.

tony.perry@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATsandiego

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