A United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent has been convicted of four felony counts in connection with the assistance he gave to a Mexican national with a criminal record to re-enter the U.S., the California Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
The ICE agent, 44-year-old Felix Cisneros Jr. of Murrieta, has been suspended from the agency and was found guilty of the charges on Monday.
The man he was helping get into the country, Santiago Garcia-Gutierrez, was actually a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. but was not allowed to re-enter the country due to criminal convictions and an outstanding warrant for his arrest, prosecutors said.
Garcia-Gutierrez was a business associate of a friend of Cisneros’ and had been traveling to Mexico City when he ran into trouble getting back into the U.S. in September 2013, prosecutors said.
At the time, he had already tried getting back into the U.S. from Mexico just two months earlier, according to prosecutors. He was able to do so — but only under certain conditions due to his ongoing criminal case.
He was “paroled in,” state prosecutors said in a news release, meaning he was only being allowed back into the U.S. temporarily. Also, his Mexican passport was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection along with his “green card,” prosecutors said.
In a news release, prosecutors said Cisneros “persuaded” the Customs and Border Protection officers to return the passport and “ensured” that Garcia-Gutierrez would be able to re-enter the U.S. again. He also “urged” officials to extend Garcia-Gutierrez ‘s parole time so he could stay in the U.S. until his immigration status is worked out.
Prosecutors said Cisneros also queried a law enforcement database in order to get information about Garcia-Gutierrez ‘s prior convictions and other criminal activities he’s suspected of.
During a routine background investigation by ICE agent, as part of his employment with the agency, Cisneros failed to tell officials he he had a longstanding relationship with Garcia-Gutierrez, according to prosecutors. That led to his conviction for making false statements.
He was also convicted of charges including conspiracy to aid and assist the entry of an alien convicted of an aggravated felony into the United States, acting as agent of another person in a matter affecting the government and falsification of records in a federal investigation.
Cisneros faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in federal prison and will be sentenced on July 30.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the native country of the passport issued to Garcia-Gutierrez. The post has since been updated.