Four arrested in Tijuana on smuggling charges

By Greg Moran

October 21, 2008

FEDERAL COURT – A federal grand jury has indicted two former Border Patrol agents on 18 charges of smuggling illegal immigrants into the country, taking bribes, laundering money and tampering with witnesses.

AdvertisementThe brothers, Raul Villarreal, 39, and Fidel Villarreal, 40, vanished two years ago amid reports they were under investigation. They were arrested Saturday in Tijuana along with two others charged in the case, Armando Garcia, 40, and Claudia Gonzalez, 32.
Garcia was identified as a foot guide who shuttled immigrants across the border, and Gonzalez as a participant in arranging the smuggling runs. Both are charged with bribing the brothers to aid the scheme.

A grand jury in San Diego handed up the indictment in April, but it was not unsealed until yesterday.

It alleges that the brothers used Border Patrol vehicles to pick up illegal immigrants that Garcia had taken across the border and then drop them at locations inside the United States.

Raul Villarreal made cash deposits into his bank account of more than $63,000 in 2005 and 2006, the indictment says. The witness-tampering charge alleges the four tried to intimidate another man, Hector Cabrera, from testifying. The indictment said Cabrera recruited and directed drivers to smuggle immigrants.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said it will seek extradition of all four people from Mexico.
Greg Moran: (619) 542-4586; greg.moran@uniontrib ... gents.html