Ex-U.S. Customs officer convicted of letting drug-filled cars enter from Mexico

Cars wait to enter the United States from Tijuana, Mexico through the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego.
In this Dec. 3, 2014 photo, cars wait to enter the United States from Tijuana, Mexico through the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)
Share via

A former U.S. Customs officer has been convicted of accepting bribes to let drug-filled vehicles into the United States from Mexico, giving traffickers a one-hour window to reach his lane at a San Diego border crossing and pocketing at least $13,000 per vehicle, officials said Thursday.

Prosecutors say Leonard Darnell George, a Customs and Border Protection officer working for two separate criminal organizations, allowed at least 19 crossings between late 2021 to June 2022. The vehicles contained several hundred pounds of methamphetamine as well as smaller amounts of cocaine, fentanyl and heroin, and also people being brought into the country illegally, according to court documents.

The federal raids resulted in 36 arrests, including one Border Patrol agent; 11 people remain at large.

June 6, 2024

Text messages obtained by investigators showed George agreed to let cars through for $17,000 per vehicle, and one message showed he received $68,000 after letting through four vehicles from drug traffickers in June 2022, the news release said.


George’s attorney, Antonio Yoon, did not immediately respond to emails and voicemail seeking comment.

George was convicted by a federal jury in U.S. District Court in San Diego on Monday of taking a bribe by a public official, conspiracy to import controlled substances, and two counts of allowing vehicles with unauthorized individuals to enter the country.

A truck driver is arrested and his rig seized after U.S. border agents find almost 3,000 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in a shipment of carrots.

March 25, 2024

“Abandoning the integrity of the uniform for the conspiracy of drug trafficking is a path to a criminal conviction,” said U.S. Attorney Tara K. McGrath in a statement.

Witnesses testified that George used the money to buy vehicles, motorcycles and jewelry, and also spent lavishly at a strip club in Tijuana, the news release said.

His sentencing hearing is set for Sept. 13. The maximum penalty for his charges range from 10 years to life in prison.

Ding writes for the Associated Press.