BROWNSVILLE, Texas — A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer accused of taking money from Mexican drug traffickers and possibly stashing tens of thousands of dollars in Mexico will remain jailed until his trial date Next year.
On Thursday afternoon, Jose Luis “Pepe” Zavala wore a shackles and a prison uniform as he went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan for a bond hearing. During the hearing prosecutors alleged that Zavala’s bank account only had $1,000 and they believe that he had stashed tens of thousands in bribe money somewhere in Mexico.
Zavala had crossed into Mexico 43 times in recent months, his in-laws were from Matamoros, and he had a large amount of relatives in Monterrey, prosecutors said claiming he was a flight risk.
Federal agents arrested Zavala last week following an investigation into a 3,000 pound drug seizure made on November 19 at one of the international bridges in the Texas border city of Brownsville, court records obtained by Breitbart Texas show.
The driver had fled to Mexico but left behind an U.S. passport card that didn’t belong to him. Soon after the owner of the passport card showed up at the bridge and became an informant claiming that he had given the card to a Mexican cartel in exchange for $360.
The informant told agents with Homeland Security Investigations that the Mexican cartel had a CBP officer working for them named Pepe and that he had met Pepe before in Mexico. The informant gave the agents Pepe’s phone number which turned out to be Zavala’s personal cell number and even described his personal vehicle. The informant showed the agents multiple text messages exchanged with Zavala where the two talked in code about the smuggling venture.
While Zavala’s attorney asked that his client be released on a $100,000 bond, Judge Morgan had a very different take on the case.
“Not everyone is entrusted with oath and duty to uphold the law,” Morgan said. “Because of the charges against you there is the presumption that you violated that trust. I consider you a flight risk and to safeguard the community I’m going to order that you be held without bond pending trial.”