When Luis Alarid was a child, his mother would seat him in the car while she smuggled people and drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border. She was the sweet-talking commuter, he was her cute boy, and the mother-son ploy regularly kept customs inspectors from peeking inside the trunk.
Twenty-five years later, Alarid was back at the border in San Diego, seeking a job as a customs inspector. To get hired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, he first needed to clear screening that examined his personal, financial and work histories.
Alarid had served in the Marines and Army, which was a factor in his favor. But there was cause for concern: His finances were in shambles, including $30,000 in credit card debt. His mother, father and other relatives had been convicted of or indicted on charges of smuggling.
After the background check and an interview, Alarid was cleared for a border posting.
Within months, he turned his government job into a lucrative criminal enterprise. In cahoots with a gang that included his uncle and, allegedly, his mother, Alarid let cars into California filled with drugs and illegal immigrants.
Customs and Border Protection agents and officers are increasingly becoming the target of corruption investigations. Click the photo above to see some recent cases. And read more of our article with the Los Angeles Times.