Veteran immigration agent faces prison in kickback scheme

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Miami Herald
Monday, July 27, 2009

A federal undercover agent is facing up to two years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to shaking down government informants for thousands of dollars while he was infiltrating an Ecuadorean-Chinese smuggling operation.

Pedro Cintron, a veteran Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, was charged with taking more than $15,000 in kickbacks from two paid confidential informants who worked with him in 2004 and 2005.

Cintron, 53, who lives in Weston, allegedly instructed one of the informants to deliver $300 to his girlfriend in Ecuador and to obtain $1,000 worth of cellular telephones for her, according to an indictment filed in November. The informant also gave Cintron a gold bracelet valued at $800.

In addition to accepting illegal gratuities, Cintron was charged with theft, disclosing the name of a confidential informant and making false statements to authorities.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Clark said Cintron's alleged kickback scheme unfolded in 2004 when he demanded 10 percent cuts of ICE's payments to the informants helping the undercover agent penetrate the smuggling ring.

Those payments came from smugglers who negotiated with Cintron to bring Chinese migrants to the United States at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One of the informants introduced Cintron, whose undercover identity was "Jose,'' to a Chinese national, Yongquan Fang, who lived in Ecuador. In October 2004, the ICE agent negotiated with Fang to transport several Chinese migrants to the United States at a cost of $88,000.

After the smuggler wired the money to an ICE undercover bank account, a federal grand jury in Miami indicted Fang and four others in a migrant smuggling-for-profit case.

In July 2005, Cintron negotiated another smuggling deal with Fang to send three more Chinese migrants to the United States — this time for $85,000.

By year's end, the undercover ICE agent solicited and accepted $12,000 from Fang as the down payment to transport four additional Chinese migrants into the United States. ... agent.html