Former Customs and Border Protection officer pleads guilty to bribery

A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer pleaded guilty to bribery on Thursday, when he confessed to accepting $17,000 during a federal sting operation.

Oziel Cantu, 47, of Alamo — a former Customs and Border Protection officer assigned to the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge — pleaded guilty to bribery on Thursday morning.

During a federal sting operation, Cantu allowed a truck loaded with cocaine to cross the Pharr bridge. In exchange, he accepted $17,000.

“I think he’s a good guy,” said attorney Rick Salinas of Mission, who represents Cantu. “I think he’s a very decent human being who just made a terrible mistake.”

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security started investigating Cantu in June 2020, according to the criminal complaint against him.

An undercover agent, who pretended to be part of a drug trafficking organization, approached Cantu.

Cantu accepted $2,000 from the undercover agent in July, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexis Garcia, who summarized the case on Thursday morning.

In August, he coordinated a cocaine shipment with the undercover agents.

Cantu agreed to let them bring 40 kilograms of cocaine across the bridge. In exchange, they would pay him an additional $15,000.

An undercover agent “advised CBPO Oziel Cantu that the drug laden vehicle would be a white Chevrolet Silverado and the driver would place a red hardhat on the dashboard near the driver side,” according to the criminal complaint.

Cantu told the undercover agent to send the truck across the Pharr bridge on the morning of Aug. 19.

“CBPO Oziel Cantu further instructed that 3 inspection lanes would be open and that the vehicle carrying narcotics needed to proceed through inspection lane 1,” according to the criminal complaint.

An undercover agent drove the Silverado, which actually contained 11.35 kilograms of diluted cocaine, across the bridge.

Cantu met with an undercover agent that afternoon to collect the money.

“The only thing I can tell you is right after it happened and when they approached him, he was, for lack of a better term, apologetic,” Salinas said.

Cantu appeared Thursday morning by Zoom, wearing glasses and a black mask.

After he listened to the federal prosecutor summarize the case against him, Cantu confirmed the details and pleaded guilty.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 10.

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