A Border Patrol agent pleaded guilty last week to accepting bribes in exchange for allowing human smugglers to sneak illegal immigrants across the US-Mexico border.

Rodney Tolson Jr. admitted July 7 to a single count of conspiracy to transport an undocumented alien within the US, according to a plea agreement filed Sunday. He faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing.

In the plea agreement, which was initially obtained by The Daily Beast, Tolson admitted that he would call one of the smugglers and let them know “which lane and time window” he was working at the Border Patrol checkpoint near Laredo, Texas.

In exchange for waving the smugglers through the checkpoint, Tolson received $400 per alien, the agreement says.

The documents do not state how much cash Tolson cleared from his illegal activity, but they do say he allowed the smugglers to pass through his checkpoint lane at least six times between February and June of 2019.

United States Border Patrol agents process  migrants who crossed the US-Mexico border into the United States in Roma, Texas on July 9, 2021
United States Border Patrol agents process migrants who crossed the US-Mexico border into the United States in Roma, Texas on July 9, 2021.
PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

The plea agreement indicates that one of Tolson’s co-conspirators flipped on him after the smuggler was arrested in November of 2019. By February of 2020, Tolson knew that he was under investigation. The agent told his co-conspirator the following month that he was being sent away for training, adding: “I think they are messing with me.”

Despite knowing he was under investigation, the document states, Tolson offered to help out the human traffickers by “using the ranches to cross since he had the keys and knew where the cameras were located.” He promised that once he knew his work schedule, he would arrange a “ghost run” with the smugglers.

Tolson was arrested in Laredo on May 21 after he was indicted by a grand jury, according to a Border Patrol statement. The statement, which did not name Tolson, added that he had been with the agency since 2008 and had been suspended indefinitely.

Corruption among border agents has been a thorn in the side of government officials working to tackle the problems at the US-Mexico frontier. According to a 2015 US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) integrity report, “arrests for corruption of CBP personnel far exceed, on a per capita basis, such arrests at other federal law enforcement agencies.”

In January of this year another border agent, Jose Rosalio Fuentes, pleaded guilty to accepting $6,000 for facilitating illegal border crossings, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Two days after Tolson pleaded guilty, another Border Patrol agent was arrested and accused of accepting $1,000 to help smuggle cocaine through a checkpoint.

A metal fence marked with the US Border Patrol sign prevents people to get close to the barbed/concertina wire covering the US/Mexico border fence, in Nogales, Arizona, on February 9, 2019
Rodney Tolson received $400 per smuggler, the agreement says.

The cases come as illegal immigrants attempt to cross into the United States in numbers not seen in more than two decades after the Biden administration reversed tight border measures put in place by former President Donald Trump.

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