Border agent in AZ pot case released pending trial

A federal magistrate in Yuma has allowed a U.S. Border Patrol agent to be freed without bond until his trial on marijuana smuggling charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Uhl had tried to convince Magistrate Jay Irwin during a hearing Monday that Agent Michael Atondo was a flight risk.

Uhl also said Atondo appeared to be a mole who infiltrated the Border Patrol to smuggle drugs, The Yuma Sun reported.

“How much more dangerous is it when the drug smuggler is a Border Patrol agent, in a town like Yuma, where the Border Patrol is a respected federal law enforcement agency?” Uhl asked the magistrate.

Uhl said Atondo had traveled to Mexico four times in the past year with someone with ties to drug running, had just paid cash for a $26,000 boat, and that his wife had recently emptied all the money from their bank account.

Irwin, however, was unconvinced and released the agent on his own recognizance.

“I don’t think the defendant is going to run. If he does, it will be the most foolish thing he could do, other than the crime he has been accused of,” Irwin said.

Atondo was arrested earlier this month after two other agents reported finding 745 pounds of marijuana in his Border Patrol truck. The truck was backed up to a border fence about 40 miles east of Yuma.

Attorney John Minore, who represents Atondo, noted that his client has not been convicted.

“Did he stray to the dark side? We don’t know,” Minore said.

Atondo’s next court appearance is a status hearing set for Thursday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

via : The Associated Press

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