Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

ICE Officer Arrested for Pot Smuggling

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 |

CBS News

This photo provided by the Pinal County Sheriff's Office shows Jason Alistair Lowery. (AP Photo/Pinal County Sheriff's Office)

A deportation officer with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement led Arizona state police and federal agents on a high-speed desert chase in his government vehicle, throwing bundles of marijuana out of the window as he fled, the Department of Public Safety said Wednesday.

The deportation officer, identified as Jason Alistair Lowery, 34, had been under surveillance for more than month after a known smuggler who had been arrested gave authorities a tip about the officer in an effort to get lenient treatment, Department of Public Safety Officer Carrick Cook told The Associated Press.

In a criminal complaint filed late Wednesday against Lowery, who also used to be a Border Patrol agent, a Department of Homeland Security investigator wrote that he got further information about Lowery through a confidential informant on Oct. 4.

The informant, whose identity was protected, said that he or she was involved with Lowery and another man in a "rip" crew in which Lowery used his status in law enforcement to help steal marijuana from illegal immigrants, wrote Brian Gamberg-Bonilla, a special agent with the DPS's Office of Investigations.

The informant agreed to call Lowery and arrange for him to pick up 500 pounds of pot in the desert on Tuesday, which is how authorities were able to follow him and begin to make their case, Gamberg-Bonilla wrote in the document.

DPS and federal agents tried to pull Lowery over after he picked up the marijuana with his unmarked ICE pickup truck, Cook said. Lowery then fled, leading agents on a 45-minute chase at speeds of up to 110 mph as he threw 10 of the 14 bundles of pot that he had in the truck out of the window, he said.

"He got pretty desperate," Cook said.

The chase began in the Vekol Valley about 45 miles south of Phoenix and ended just south of Sacaton, about 20 miles as the crow flies northwest from where the chase began. It ended when Lowery's truck rolled over and he gave himself up.

Lowery, who lives in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, appeared in federal court in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday but did not address the court. He sat quietly awaiting the hearing and at one point looked up at the ceiling and repeatedly shook his head.

Prosecutor John Lopez argued that Lowery should be detained as his court case proceeds, saying that he poses a risk to the community and could flee the state. He also said that Lowery had a non-government-issued gun on him when he was arrested.

Federal Magistrate Michelle Burns set a hearing in the matter for Tuesday.

Lowery's court-appointed attorney, Rebecca Felmly, declined to comment. Lowery's wife, who identified herself as Trina Lowery, also declined to speak to The Associated Press.

Mexican drug cartels have infiltrated federal law enforcement agencies along the border for years, targeting hiring initiatives with their own people or recruiting officers.

Between 2003 and early 2010, 129 U.S. customs officers and Border Patrol agents were arrested on corruption charges, according to Tom Frost, the Department of Homeland Security's assistant inspector general for investigations. The office was not immediately able to provide an updated figured to the AP.

"This is becoming all too common, in my opinion," said Jim Dorcy, a retired Border Patrol agent who later investigated corruption among agents for the Justice Department. "Statistically it's pretty rare, but you have to understand that as a law enforcement agency, it should be approaching zero."

He said any amount of corruption in a police agency, let alone dozens of cases, destroys the public's confidence and criminals' respect. The heart of the problem lies in recent hiring booms in ICE and the Border Patrol in which the bar was lowered to meet hiring quotas, Dorcy said.

As for the corruption cases he investigated, Dorcy said it usually came down greed.

"They just want to make more money than the job offers, and they get offered a very tempting amount of money," he said.

In one notable case, former Customs officer Margarita Crispin was arrested in El Paso, Texas, in 2007 and sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to import more than 1,000 kilograms (2,204 pounds) of marijuana. Prosecutors alleged that she accepted more than $5 million in bribes over several years in exchange for letting smugglers' vehicles pass through her checkpoint without inspection.

In a more recent case, former Border Patrol agent Michael Angelo Atondo was found guilty of trafficking marijuana in southwestern Arizona after fellow Border Patrol agents found him in a remote area along the border near San Luis — several miles outside of his patrol zone — with 745 pounds of marijuana in his vehicle.

Prosecutors say Atondo appeared to be a mole who infiltrated the agency to smuggle drugs. The 34-year-old will be sentenced Jan. 9.

In Lowery's case, DPS believes that he was taking the 500 pounds of marijuana that he picked up in the desert to a man working for a drug cartel whose house served as the nexus of the drug distribution.

Lowery was booked into Pinal County jail on charges of smuggling and felony flight and was turned over to ICE custody Wednesday morning. The sheriff's office also booked the man who was to receive the marijuana, identified as 33-year-old Joshua Duane Powell of Arizona City.

At Powell's home, police found 14 rifles and guns in the trunk of his car, seven of which had been reported stolen, according to a DPS document.

The document also said that Powell had been out on a $25,000 bond stemming from a separate investigation last month in which multiple bulletproof vests, weapons, stolen night-vision equipment, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and various drugs were found in his home.

"Since his release only a few weeks ago, (Powell) has amassed a small arsenal of weapons and has proven to continue involvement in the illicit drug trade," the document said.

Powell does not yet have an attorney and he has declined interview requests from the news media.

ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard said that Lowery worked as a deportation officer for the agency since August 2008 but declined to provide further information about Lowery.

"ICE is cooperating with federal and state authorities in this matter," Picard said in a statement. "We hold our officers and agents to the highest levels of responsibility and are committed to supporting the agencies investigating this incident."

Lowery worked as a deportation agent in ICE's fugitive operations team, which goes after illegal immigrants who fail to leave the country after they're ordered to be deported. Such officers carry weapons and have arrest powers.

Border Patrol spokesman Mario Escalante said Lowery also worked for that agency before going to ICE, but did not know for how long.

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34 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

Go to mexico and FIRST

Capo said...

Greed will make you do some crazy shit. I am sure this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to corrupt US officials along the border. No telling how many go undetected. Try and put yourself in there situation. A career that pays at best 30 to 40 thousand a year to start. Fast cash will make alot of people rethink there status. Eventually everyone gives each other up. Doesn't matter which side of the law you are on.

Anonymous said...

But I thought only Mexican American Agents were the only ones that would do such things...

Anonymous said...

Why in the hell would he still be driving a government vehicle weeks after he was initially being investigated and released on bond? Haven't this Feds learned anything from Fast & Furious investigation?

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute, what happened to all the posts to kill the cops that are dirty. Kill all the cops that support the Zetas. Kill all those Juarez cops that support CDJ. Where are you now? It is a lot different when it is one of yours. Now it is all about, greed can get the best of us. He only makes 30 to 40 grand a year, so greed got him. Such poverty made him re-think his status. What's up guys. There is no mercy for the Nuevo Laredo cop that makes $600 a month and takes a $1,000 a month bribe to give the local cartel a heads up if the military is coming. And more than likely he was told take it or die. No mercy for him, just kill the dirty Mexican, huh. But this guy is a good white boy that greed steered him wrong. I guess we need to give him a second chance, huh? LOL You John Wayne cops are a trip.

Anonymous said...

They need to shoot this piece of dog shit...

Anonymous said...

greed will imprison us all

Anonymous said...

Kill the SOB now.

Richard said...

He needs to go away like all the other narco pigs.

Anonymous said...

ok, ok, ok!! Lets make it even...

Death to the dirty mexican cop, and Death to the dirty gringo cop....


are you happy now!!!

Anonymous said...

"A career that pays at best 30 to 40 thousand a year to start" lol, you be surprise how much they make!!!!

Anonymous said...

damm that's messed up.. Soon the influence of cartel that has plague Mexico will soon spread to America eventually corrupting a lot more federal officials.

Anonymous said...

LOL, I knew that would stir up all the John Waynes.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me, I need to go pick up a couple of grams of coke so that this shit can continue.

Anonymous said...

Come on people, just look at that guy, he's not even white skinned, i'm sure he's mexican..

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Wait a minute, what happened to all the posts to kill the cops that are dirty.
here is mine.
one shot to the head for this dirty pos.
if you have to know i am a free White male.

Anonymous said...

Don't drop the soap, Pendejo!

Anonymous said...

I work in law enforcement and theres no way in hell starting salary for his job is 30-40k /yr...more like 55-70 starting, plus excellent benefits, best retirement in the country at 3% and they chose the easy money. Starting salary for a police officer is 55k to 70k. Unless you live in a rural area, but still no cops 30-40/yr....moral of my comments, this guy got too greedy with his excellent job, what an idiot.

Anonymous said...

se mira bein chaka el cabron no mames they let this guy in the border patrol JAJAJa

Anonymous said...

Every time a US agent get's busted it is big news. (Hey, you guys forgot about the Yuma agent that was just in the paper who was caught with 500 pounds of weed in his truck) And that is because it IS big news. Everyone knows there is dirty ICE and BP agents just as there is dirty cops. But you are talking MAYBE one out of a thousand. And even if it was one out of 500, it still fails miserably in comparison to entire police departments in Mexico who get fired. And yes, most of the Mexican cops don't have a choice. But I bet all the money in the word that I can drive to Mexicali for lunch, run a red light, and $40 will get me off on the spot with the cop. Not on the US side. Police corruption isn't just running drugs. If a cop gets a free donut with the business thinking that if he gives a cop free donuts they will in some way be favorable to that business, that is the definition of police corruption. For the person who thinks we should kill the Mexican cops and let the US cops go free, you have a giant chip on your shoulders. There are some US cops that need a bullet just as there are some Mexican ones who need to be shot. Case by case basis. I'm all for decriminalizing weed, so this guy should just go to jail.

Anonymous said...

October 20, 2011 9:11 AM
NETA! CON LA BARBA Y TODO JAJAJAJA

Capo said...

According to USAJobs.com (the government website for federal jobs), immigration officers earn between $27,431 and $54,028, depending on whether they start at the GS-5, GS-7 or GS-9 level. For the GS-5 level, you must either have three years of related experience or a bachelor's degree. One year of specialized experience at the GS-5 level (or one year of graduate school) will qualify you for the GS-7 level. If you worked for the federal government in a GS-7 level or have earned a master's degree, you'll qualify for GS-9 pay level and responsibilities

Anonymous said...

Corruption is corruption Here, Mexico, China, its still the same crap, same shit differnt smell. Police, Sherrifs, Constables, Judges, Lawyers it dont matter it still taking bribes! Money is good and it dont make a differnce what we say! 40 or 50 a yr even 75 whats the big difference? When what u can make in a yr, someone can offer the same just for u 2 give him a (tip) or in anyway help out in any illegal activity they may ask for help. Thats something that nobody can compete with! The drug cartels have money and the political backup in mexico to do anything they wish. All the backup of the U.S, really aint made a difference bodies are found Daily!!!! And the body count is rising as i put this blog comment. So Mexico has never allowed the U.S to step into its soil with full force because it will hurt insted of help, old secrets will appear and things that they say arnt true will come to the light, thats why. Drugs will never finish, the U.S buys all of it. Grams, oz, pounds, kilos, tons of all an every drug possiable.. So really we as a nation feed the drug violence with there purpose... So all this os nonsense, wasye of taxpayers money. Just like probithon back in Capones days, its not controlable. So get use to it just as the mexicans do, they accept it and go on with they lives.

ATTE: ME!

Anonymous said...

hahaa what a dumbass!! Obviously this jerkoff got in way to deep for his little cajones to handle..welcome to the real world.

Anonymous said...

ha 1 down 1000 to go amerikkka land of the corrupt and not so free

Anonymous said...

Actually the U.S. has invaded Mexico more than once. On one ocassion marines invaded Veracruz to stop the president from selling oil to Germany. So yes, Mexico is a pushover and can easily be occupied. Not that I would condone such measures but if our government thought to do it Mexico would not put up a fight.

Anonymous said...

@Capo: That information is incorrect. Only the first year is like that. After that, it's considerably higher.

Anonymous said...

He looks like a tonk. No wonder he took the money to move the dope.

Anonymous said...

I am an american living in mexico and it is sad the quality of officers they are now hiring...They act like cholos and speak very poor gang type spanish......My 17 yr old daughter was detained and then searched having to remove her feminine protection and then sent across the bridge bleeding down her leg....I filed a complaint with the FBI and what they told me is scary.....homeland security has to have no probable cause for search.....they can legally strip search a 4yr old,,,,,,.. We need our troops on the border and not the mex/american thugs they are now hiring because they are supposedly bilingual.......

Anonymous said...

@tonk yes starting pay is based on 6 months then you get a significant raise. With pay, benefits and job security it is an awesome job. I know some federal agents and they are straight laced and dedicated. They get giddy around anyone that even jokes about crooked stuff. I hope that they fry this dolt. I hate when the judge considers that the LEO is losing his carreer and goes light on the sentence. Actually the dolt was not working as a LEO the minute he considered doing dirt. Fry him for being a criminal that posed as a LEO. Now he will earn $1.50 a day towards his prison commissary account if he's lucky enough to get a job in prison. JaJa!

Anonymous said...

The avaerage Deportation Officer after a few years makes well over $100K a year, plus a take-home unmarked car, valued at about $15K a year. This moron deserves to be treated like the avaricious jackwagon that he is. He makes the other 99.9% look bad. Matter of fact, he should be sentenced to whatever the other ICE-USBP-ERO officers deem appropriate.

Clown.

Anonymous said...

Im laughing at the poster who said he makes the other 99.9 percent look bad hahaha more like the other 90 percet as in 10 percent of U.S law enforement border patrol,ICE,FBI,CIA and others alike are probably corrupt but keep it low key the fools that say 99.9 percent of U.S law enforment are loyal not corrupted them idiots need to get there head out of there ass

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: Um not to be racial, but Powell is BLACK and so is the other guy they arrested in connection with this case. But I agree with you that all dirty cops should face equal justice under the law.

Anonymous said...

ok,ok..so in mexico most of the cops are on the payroll,but think about this...one dirty cop in the U.S. can easily smuggle a ton of dope across the border every 48-72 hours.do the math white america.if youre paying your armed forces so well,why go to work for the other team?mexican authorities have a choice,silver or lead?what pushes your american cops to do this?thank you!!

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