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Friday, June 09, 2006

San Diego border agent arrested in raid

By ALLISON HOFFMAN, Associated Press Writer
Fri Jun 9, 12:13 AM ET

SAN DIEGO - A border inspector accused of accepting cash and a luxury vehicle from smugglers driving carloads of illegal immigrants through border crossings was arrested Thursday.

The arrest came after a two-year investigation by the Border Corruption Task Force, a multi-agency team that pursues claims against officers at border crossings in California.

Investigators said that they had placed wiretaps on U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer Richard Elizalda's phones after receiving tips that he was involved in suspicious activities.

In an indictment unsealed by federal prosecutors, Elizalda is accused of allowing smugglers from Tijuana, Mexico, into the U.S. through the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego.

Elizalda, a 10-year veteran, was arrested in an early morning raid on his home in Chula Vista. Agents seized cash and two luxury cars.

Elizalda's arrest came a day after another border officer was arraigned on similar charges of accepting more than $500,000 in bribes from smugglers driving illegal immigrants through the border crossing at Otay Mesa, several miles east of San Ysidro. Investigators said they believe the two cases are unrelated.

Attempts to contact Elizalda's home were unsuccessful and the name of his lawyer was not known.

Elizalda remained in custody and was expected to be arraigned Friday.

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