Home News Stories 2009 June The Case of the Crooked Border Official

The Case of the Crooked Border Official

Abuse of Trust
The Case of the Crooked Border Official

06/08/09

She seemed to be serving the nation, but she was really working for a band of drug traffickers for a boatload of cash…

Americans trust that their public servants will use their positions of power lawfully—that’s why crimes involving the breach of this trust is our top criminal investigative priority. And while we investigate all kinds of public corruption, perhaps the one that most directly threatens our nation’s security and well-being involves our borders.

Keep in mind that each day, thousands of honest and dedicated men and women patrol our borders, screening travelers and goods for possible threats to our homeland. Yet their hard work is sometimes overshadowed by an occasional crooked official—like former customs inspector Margarita Crispin who, for her own financial gain, looked the other way while drug traffickers moved illegal drugs across the U.S.-Mexican border.
How it began

In late 2004, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contacted our field office in El Paso, Texas. One of their informants reported that Crispin was allowing shipments of illegal drugs into the U.S. through her border post in El Paso.

Building the case
Together with our partner agencies—ICE, the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, Customs and Border Protection, and the Drug Enforcement Administration—we began surveilling Crispin. We learned that not long after she was hired, Crispin—who lived meagerly in El Paso—acquired two expensive homes in Mexico, along with several luxury vehicles, but she attempted to cover her tracks with straw buyers. We also discovered that she socialized with known drug traffickers.

In May 2006, a strange incident in Crispin’s assigned vehicle lane at the border crossing aroused our suspicions even more: a van going through her lane ran out of gas, and its driver jumped out and ran back across the border to Mexico. When other inspectors opened the van doors, they found nearly 6,000 pounds of marijuana…in plain view (see below). Crispin couldn’t explain why that van might have been in her lane, and later that day she went home “sick.”

When this van ran out of gas in Crispin's lane at the border crossing, its driver ran off and left behind 6,000 pounds of marijuana.
When this van ran out of gas in Crispin’s lane at the border crossing,
its driver ran off and left behind 6,000 pounds of marijuana.

The turning point
For the next year, we continued to watch her. In July 2007, we received information that a truck loaded with marijuana would be crossing through Crispin’s lane. On July 7, that vehicle appeared. It was stopped and seized after it passed her inspection and was found to be packed with about 1,500 pounds of marijuana. This seizure—along with intelligence information, analysis of Crispin’s finances, telephone toll records, witness interviews, and documented surveillance—was enough for a federal indictment.

On July 25, 2007, Margarita Crispin reported for work, just like any other day. Only this time federal officers were there to greet her…and walked her out in handcuffs. In April 2008, she pled guilty and was sentenced to 240 months in prison for conspiring to import drugs, but beyond that, for abusing the public trust.

The end game
“The Crispin case,” says El Paso Special Agent in Charge David Cuthbertson, “exemplifies our commitment to removing those few bad apples from the ranks of hard-working public servants everywhere…even one case like this is one too many.”

Last year alone, the FBI worked nearly 2,500 public corruption cases and saw convictions of more than 700 dishonest public servants around the nation. Read more about our public corruption program.