Amidst a heated political debate in Washington about how to best protect our nation's borders, federal agencies are turning their attention to ferreting out corruption within their own ranks.
"We’re speaking of the anomaly here," said Aaron Poyer, who leads the Detroit Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility. "That agent who succumbs to some life situation that they end up being somehow compromised or enticed by a criminal organization to go to the dark side."
This week, the Detroit offices of the FBI and Customers and Border Protection are launching a campaign against corruption at the US-Canadian border among agents and officers. While border corruption is most prevalent along the U.S and Mexican border, the head of the Detroit FBI says Michigan's border with Canada faces plenty of serious and unique threats every day.
"It might be allowing someone to bring in illegal aliens," said David Gelios, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit FBI. "It could even be facilitating the entry of a truck into the United States which might contain the components of a bomb."
Corruption among border agents doesn’t always make news, but it is a well-documented problem nationwide. Since 2004, 197 Customs and Border Protection Agents have faced corruption-related charges. Sometimes, those agents are in Detroit.
Only a few months ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Clifton Divers was indicted, accused of conspiring with a Birmingham attorney to allow immigrants to avoid deportation. According to the indictment, Divers falsified official records, claiming that Albanian, Iraqi and Mexican nationals needed to stay in the U.S. because they were assisting in criminal investigations.
He did it, says the indictment, in exchange for more than $5,000 in free legal work. Divers is still awaiting trial. Last Fall, he entered a plea of not guilty.
"For those employees who are involved in facilitating illegal conduct," Gelios said, "they really erode away at the faith the public has in their government and their government officials."
Detecting border corruption isn’t easy. Just this month, six current and former TSA agents were indicted for their role in a massive smuggling operation that spanned 18 years—allegedly accepting bribes to help traffic more than 20 tons of cocaine into the US.
If there are dirty agents or officers here in Detroit, officials are hoping you’ll help blow the whistle. This week, they’re launching a new campaign aimed at soliciting tips. Billboards with the FBI's phone number have been popping up throughout the area asking for information, even if it’s anonymous.
"Somebody knows something," Poyer said. "Someone in the community, a neighbor, a family member, a co-worker. We’re hoping to reach out to people who sense something is wrong."
To report a tip of border corruption, you can call the Detroit FBI at 313 965-2323 or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (248) 827-9466.