Ex-Customs officer sentenced for decade-long smuggling spree

SAN DIEGO – An ex-U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer was sentenced Monday for his role in a decade-long crime spree at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

San Ysidro Mexican BorderFormer CBP Officer Lorne “Hammer” Jones, 50, was convicted of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States and attempted importation of marijuana. He was sentenced to 7 ½ years behind bars for illegally allowing people to enter into the U.S. and letting more than 66,000 pounds of drug cartel marijuana to pass through his inspection line.

Federal prosecutors said Jones’ corruption began by waving cars and vanloads of people and drugs through his lane at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, and later escalated to smuggling tractor-trailers jammed with marijuana through the commercial port of Otay Mesa.
Jones, who had been a canine officer and inspector since 1994, was indicted by a federal grand jury and arrested at work in 2010.

“Lorne Jones allowed greed to destroy everything his badge represents,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “We hope this outcome serves as a reminder that we will not allow rogue officers to compromise national security and the public trust.”

A dozen witnesses testified that Jones was on the take, including his ex-wife, who recruited him to be a smuggler.

According to trial testimony, Jones volunteered to work overtime shifts as a primary inspector so he could wave through vans jammed with people not authorized to be in the United States and drugs, and trucks full of cannabis.

Jones also employed a beeper code system to notify smugglers about which of the 24 inspection lanes he was working.

Prosecutors said the beeper system failed in 2002 when Jones was unexpectedly reassigned to another position, and a load driver was forced to abandon his van full of drugs in the inspection lane.

In a second failure months later, a van stuffed with several tons of marijuana was intercepted in the lane assigned to Jones just a few car lengths away from him. Prosecutors said Jones did not try to apprehend the smugglers as they tried to flee, but instead stayed in his booth.

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