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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Officer.com News Article: NEWS: Veteran Deputy U.S. Marshal Sentenced for Illegal Immigrant Scheme in Texas

Officer.com News Article: NEWS: Veteran Deputy U.S. Marshal Sentenced for Illegal Immigrant Scheme in Texas

Updated: June 8th, 2004 09:50:41 AM

Veteran Deputy U.S. Marshal Sentenced for Illegal Immigrant Scheme in Texas

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TONI HEINZL
Fort Worth Star Telegram via Associated Press

A federal judge sentenced a veteran deputy U.S. marshal from Abilene to two years in prison Monday for scheming to transport and harbor undocumented immigrants from Mexico and for income tax evasion.

Federal prosecutors had asked for leniency for Richard "Trigger" Jones because his cooperation could yield criminal charges against two Border Patrol agents who helped him in the immigrant-smuggling scheme.

Jones, who agreed to resign from the U.S. Marshal's Service as part of his plea agreement, will also have to pay $22,406 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and a $100,000 fine. U.S. District Judge David Godbey also ordered Jones to enroll in a treatment program for gambling addiction.

According to plea documents signed Dec. 2, Jones, 49, used his official position to request that U.S. Border Patrol agents issue documents allowing the workers to stay in the United States under the false premises that they were working as "law enforcement confidential informants."

Jones, who made $93,828 a year as a deputy marshal, fabricated that he ran a goat-ranching business, claiming personal expenditures -- for example, for a home entertainment system or for hunting trips -- as business expenses, according to court records. He also wrote numerous checks to fictitious people and deducted them as business expenses.

He used the cash generated by this scheme to pay the illegal immigrants he had brought into the country to work on his ranching property and for other people in the Abilene area, according to court records. The workers built portions of his home and his guest house.

On his 2002 tax return, he falsely listed his taxable income as $32,793 when he knew that his taxable income was $111,025, which included income from side businesses, including an oil field pump business, court documents said.

While under investigation, Jones threatened to kill the federal agents investigating him, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Uhl told Godbey.

The threat "was blowing them up in a room," Uhl said. Jones also obtained two guns with illegal silencers from a firearms dealer, Uhl said.

However, in court documents requesting leniency for Jones, Uhl wrote that Jones has given useful information to agents from the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General, the IRS and the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General in an ongoing probe of corruption and immigration offenses.

"The defendant's information indicates that perhaps at least two other federal law enforcement officers are engaged in criminal activity," Uhl wrote. "The defendant has agreed to testify in any case filed against these co-conspirators."

Several friends and former colleagues wrote the judge about Jones' previously outstanding service and integrity during his long career in the Marshal's Service dating to 1977.

Deputy marshals provide courtroom security, protect federal judges, transport prisoners to court hearings and search for fugitives.

Former U.S. Marshal Dub Bransom of the Northern District of Texas testified as a character witness and said Jones ran the Abilene and San Angelo offices of the Marshal's Service in an exemplary manner.

"The Abilene/San Angelo offices were the best-managed offices in the district," Bransom said. "He saved the government thousands of dollars by the way he conducted his business."

Jones briefly apologized to his friends and family.

The judge told Jones that he recognized that "you did a lot of good in your career in law enforcement," but added, "I think your actions hurt everybody in law enforcement and in the justice system."

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