SAN DIEGO — Two former supervisory Border Patrol agents were sentenced Tuesday to more than six years in prison for taking nearly $200,000 in bribes from what authorities say was eastern California's largest smuggling ring of illegal immigrants from Mexico.
Mario Alvarez and Samuel McClaren released smugglers and their customers from jail while working on a prisoner transfer program with the Mexican government. They once released a prisoner in a Wal-Mart parking lot for a fee of $6,000, according to court documents.
The agents, based in El Centro, once smuggled two illegal immigrants across the border themselves in a government vehicle and released them for cash, according to court documents. They turned over the location of surveillance cameras and other Border Patrol intelligence to smugglers.
"I made some terrible mistakes and what I did was wrong," Alvarez told U.S. District Judge John Houston, who sentenced him to six years, three months in prison.
McClaren, 44, wiped away tears twice with a handkerchief before Houston sentenced him to 6 1/2 years in prison.
"I have betrayed this country and I think about that every single day," said McClaren, a native of Panama.