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Bribed border agent will know fate in March Neal Putnam | Sat, Feb 15 2014 12:00 PM

A former U.S. Customs & Border Protection officer will be sentenced March 24 after being convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to engage in bribery and attempted importation of marijuana.

The same jury acquitted Lorne “Hammer” Jones, 50, of Chula Vista, of bribery in U.S. District Court after five days of deliberations. The prosecutor asked Judge Marilyn Huff to remand Jones into custody, but she allowed him to remain free on a $150,000 property bond.

Jones could receive a maximum term of 10 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine. A message was left with his attorney, but he could not be reached for comment.

According to federal prosecutors, Jones was suspected of waving cars and vanloads of undocumented workers and drugs through his lane at the San Ysidro port of entry. He was an inspector since 1994.

According to testimony, Jones had a beeper code system to tell smugglers in which one of the 24 inspection lanes Jones was working as they approached the border crossing. His system failed when Jones was randomly and unexpectedly reassigned to another position in 2002.

A load driver abandoned his van full of drugs in the inspection lane. Several months later another reassignment occurred and a van stuffed to the ceiling with four tons of marijuana was detected by an officer and his dog in Jones’ previous lane.

The driver and passenger ran from the van and all the inspectors hurried to help except Jones, according to federal prosecutors.

A key witness against Jones was Michael Taylor, a former inspector himself and friend, who was indicted in 2004. Taylor was convicted and sentenced to four years in federal prison. Taylor testified he and Jones were both smuggling aliens and drugs before Taylor was caught.

Jones was arrested on Sept. 29, 2010, and has not worked in his job since then. He served 114 days in jail before he was able to post bond, court records show.

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