Brothers who worked as Border Patrol agents sentenced for smuggling immigrants

SAN DIEGO - Two brothers convicted of bringing undocumented immigrants into the United States for financial gain while employed as Border Patrol agents were sentenced Friday to at least three decades in prison.

U.S. District Court Judge John Houston sentenced Raul Villarreal to 35 years in federal prison and Fidel Villarreal to 30 years behind bars. Both were fined $250,000.

According to evidence presented during a five-week trial that ended last August, one of the Villarreals' co-defendants, Armando Garcia, led groups of undocumented immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border at locations other than ports of entry on several occasions in 2005 and 2006.

Fidel Villarreal and his younger sibling then picked up the undocumented immigrants in their patrol vehicles and released them into the United States, according to prosecutors.

A federal jury also found the Villarreal brothers guilty of accepting bribes and conspiring to launder money.

Garcia was convicted of bringing undocumented immigrants into the United States for financial gain, as well as conspiracy to commit that crime and to launder money.

The Villarreals, both in their 40s, were arrested in Tijuana in October 2008, along with Garcia, who is also in his 40s, and another accomplice, Claudia Gonzalez, whose age is not known. The suspects were transferred to Mexico City for extradition proceedings and returned to the United States in March 2009.

The indictment against them was handed down by a federal grand jury in San Diego in April 2008.

Gonzalez pleaded guilty in December 2009 to conspiracy to smuggle undocumented immigrants for financial gain, bribery, and money laundering.

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