U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Government Website

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Safely connect using HTTPS

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
  2. News Room
  3. Former Border Patrol Agent Sentenced to 18 Years for Drug Smuggling and Bribery

Former Border Patrol Agent Sentenced to 18 Years for Drug Smuggling and Bribery Following HSI Sells, Multiagency Investigation

Release Date: April 30, 2024

SELLS, Ariz. — A Phoenix man and former border patrol agent was sentenced April 5 to 18 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for charges related to bribery of a public official and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, fentanyl and heroin. This case was initiated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and investigated by multiple federal law enforcement agencies.

“Working in the law enforcement community is a privilege and one that comes with great responsibilities in addition to holding high moral standards professionally and personally,” said HSI Arizona Special Agent in Charge Fransisco B. Burrola. “The defendant in this case chose greed over law enforcement profession, and as a result, he was caught breaking the law and sent to nearly two decades in prison, where he will have plenty of time to think about his actions.”

Carlos Victor Passapera Pinott, 56, of Buckeye, pleaded guilty June 23, 2023.

On Aug. 9, 2020, while working as a U.S. Border Patrol agent, Passapera drove his Border Patrol vehicle into the desert west of the Lukeville Port of Entry and retrieved two large duffel bags. Passapera then changed vehicles and transported the duffel bags to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where he parked and loaded the bags into the vehicle of a co-conspirator. The co-conspirator was stopped by law enforcement shortly after leaving the airport parking lot. A search of the two duffel bags revealed multiple packages of cocaine, fentanyl and heroin. Authorities seized approximately 21 kilograms of cocaine, 1 kilogram of fentanyl and 1 kilogram of heroin. An additional $311,100 in U.S. currency was seized from Passapera’s safe deposit box. Passapera admitted to accepting large cash payments in exchange for using his position to smuggle drugs.

“Defendant Passapera has betrayed his Border Patrol colleagues,” said U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino. “The Border Patrol has earned the trust of a grateful nation for its exemplary efforts to protect the border and to humanely process the migrants who come to America for a better life. Defendant’s actions threaten that trust and violated his oath to faithfully discharge his duties as a law enforcement officer.”

“The citizens of Arizona are the true victims of this crime. Passapera was a trusted agent who took an oath to protect our border and keep drugs out. He broke that oath when he chose money over honor to transport and distribute drugs in this country,” said FBI Phoenix Special Agent in Charge Akil Davis. “We hope this sentence demonstrates that corruption does not pay, and the FBI will continue to investigate and pursue those who abuse their positions.”

“A Border Patrol agent using his position to smuggle fentanyl and heroin into the United States is unconscionable,” said DHS Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari. “Today’s sentencing sends a clear message that government officials who betray the people they are meant to protect are held accountable.”

Two individuals pleaded guilty in 2022 and were sentenced for bribery of a public official charges related to this case. Omar Natalio Martinez Fontes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and alien smuggling. Fontes received time served after serving over two years in custody. Luis Alfredo Quintero-Gonzalez also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and alien smuggling. Quintero-Gonzalez received time served after over 22 months in custody.

The investigation was conducted primarily by the Southern Arizona Border Corruption Task Force (comprising the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, HSI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the Tucson Police Department), the DEA, the Native Task Force, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Surprise Police Department.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona in Tucson prosecuted the case.

Last Updated: 04/30/2024
Was this page helpful?
This page was not helpful because the content