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Updated Apr 10, 2013 - 4:16 pm

Arizona border agent pleads guilty to drug-related gun charge

PHOENIX — A U.S. Border Patrol agent who admitted smuggling marijuana
while on duty along the Arizona-Mexico border has pleaded guilty to a felony
drug-related gun charge.

The possible punishment for Agent Aaron Anaya, 25, ranges from a mandatory
five-year minimum sentence up to life in prison for his guilty plea Wednesday to
possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

Authorities say investigators conducting aerial surveillance in southwestern
Arizona saw Anaya load marijuana bundles that had been dropped over the border
fence from Mexico into his patrol vehicle on Dec. 2 in between Yuma and Wellton,
about 185 miles southwest of Phoenix. Anaya was wearing his Border Patrol
uniform at the time.

Investigators say they tracked Anaya for several hours as he appeared to return
to normal duties and later found nearly 147 pounds of marijuana in back of the
agency’s patrol vehicle.

As part of his plea, Anaya admitted that he would have used service weapons _ a
handgun and rifle _ that he carried while on duty to protect himself and the
marijuana load if a situation had arisen in which rival traffickers would have
tried to steal the drugs. Anaya didn’t fire the guns when he was in possession
of the marijuana.

Federal Magistrate David K. Duncan asked Anaya whether the allegations against
him were true. “Yes sir,” said Anaya, dressed in a black and white striped
jail suit.

Attorneys on both sides agreed to a five-year sentence, though the decision on
punishment is ultimately up to U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver, who is set to
sentence the agent on June 24.

The Border Patrol said Anaya is still employed with the agency but is on
indefinite suspension without pay.

The plea agreement requires prosecutors to dismiss four other charges,
including marijuana importation, against Anaya once he is sentenced.

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