A Border Patrol agent who was on the take, waving illegal immigrants through his Texas highway checkpoint station in exchange for cash payments, was slapped with a 21-month prison sentence Tuesday.
Rodney Tolson Jr., 36, was caught on video allowing the vehicles with illegal immigrants to pass his duty point, and two smugglers said they were paying him for his cooperation.
He would tip the smugglers off to which lane of the checkpoint he would be manning on Interstate 35 outside of Laredo, according to his plea agreement. The smugglers would make sure they were in that lane when they drove through.
Tolson seemed an eager participant. At one point, when one of the smugglers asked via texting if he was ready to make some cash, he replied “U know it.”
Authorities first were tipped to Tolson after sheriff’s deputies in Frio County, Texas, caught one of the smugglers with a load of five illegal immigrants in his Dodge Ram.
Federal agents went back to track the pickup’s movements through the Border Patrol checkpoint on I-35, and spotted Tolson waving the truck through.
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The smuggler in that event admitted he and his father-in-law, who also smuggled migrants, were paying off Tolson.
The father-in-law said Tolson made $400 per person smuggled under his nose, and he was paid in a Walmart parking lot.
Prosecutors detailed at least six smuggling incidents, but Tolson’s plea agreement suggested there may have been even more.
Homeland Security investigators found evidence of Tolson’s involvement on his Facebook page, and also recorded conversations between him and one of the smugglers, where Tolson said he figured he was under suspicion because his duties kept changing.
In his plea agreement Tolson admitted that after he lost access to the checkpoint assignments, he pondered orchestrating smuggling across local ranch land. He had keys to gates on those properties and knew how to avoid the cameras put in place to track illegal immigrants, he said.
Tolson remains free on bond, with an agreement to turn himself in when officials decide on the prison at which he will serve his sentence.