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Border Patrol agents accused of releasing immigrants for bribes

Associated Press Writer

SAN DIEGO- Two U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to prosecute more immigrant smugglers were arrested for allegedly releasing border-crossers in exchange for cash bribes.

Mario Alvarez, 44, and Samuel McClaren, 43, released the illegal immigrants to a smuggling ring that operates in El Centro, about 120 miles east of San Diego, according to a federal complaint filed in January and unsealed Thursday.

The smugglers then allegedly took the migrants to Los Angeles.

The complaint said McClaren deposited $85,900 in personal bank accounts, while Alvarez deposited $82,000.

"The agents arrested today, who are supposed to represent the very best, epitomize the very worst," said Daniel Dzwilewski, special agent in charge of the FBI in San Diego.

Paul Starita, an assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego, declined to discuss the case further, saying the investigation remains open.

The agents couldn't be reached for comment and it wasn't immediately determined whether they've hired defense attorneys. Their arraignments in federal court were scheduled Friday.

Both men, of Imperial, were charged with conspiracy, bribery, making false statements, migrant smuggling and filing false tax returns.

The agents were assigned to a joint effort between the Border Patrol and Mexico's attorney general's office under which smugglers arrested in the United States are deported to Mexico for prosecution, the complaint said. Alvarez worked on the effort from November 2002 to the end of last year; McClaren worked on it from July 2003 through last year.

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