Maybe it's really the case that bribery and public corruption are becoming more commonplace, or maybe I'm just paying closer attention, but here's yet another instance of drug-war related corruption, this time involving an El Paso-based DEA Agent:
A former DEA agent who pleaded guilty to bribery charges was sentenced to a year in federal prison on Thursday, acting U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy announced.This is not exceptionally surprising, given that the FBI has been sounding the alarum now for a couple of years regarding increased corruption among US drug, immigration, and border patrol employees. What is surprising, though, is how commonplace serious bribery allegations in Texas have become.
George H. Brunner pleaded guilty in April to accusations he accepted money and gifts in exchange for helping Mexican nationals to obtain U.S. visas. Brunner was assigned to the DEA office in Juarez.
Brunner must surrender to authorities by Sept. 14 to begin serving his prison term. He must also pay a $3,000 fine and be placed under supervised release for three years after finishing his term, officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
In just the last month Texas has seen a Houston-based waste management company accused of bribing the wife of the US House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers to get her to change her vote in their favor on the Detroit City Council. Another Houston company, Kellogg Brown and Root, paid more than $500 million in fines and fees this spring to get out from under federal bribery allegations related to Nigerian contracts.
County employees in Houston processing urinalysis results were allegedly taking bribes to alter documents in two separate county departments. Last fall, in Bexar County (San Antonio) accusations arose regarding low-level graft influencing bail bond referrrals. (Haven't heard an update on where that investigation stands.)
The Dallas school district, the Dallas City Council, Dallas state Rep. Terri Hodge, the San Antonio Housing Authority and the El Paso District Clerk, a newly elected El Paso District Judge, other El Paso county and school district officials, not to mention the Sheriff of Starr County, all currently face or have already seen convictions stemming from bribery allegations.
I spent quite a bit of time last year reporting how Sheriffs in Bexar and Potter Counties were hounded out of office over allegations of commissary-related bribery. In Bastrop, the Sheriff recently was convicted of corruption including bribe taking to protect illegal gambling operations, a habit that also took down the Laredo chief of police based on similar charges.
Some of those accused may turn out to not be guilty, but even looking only at the ones who already pled guilty or where the government secured a conviction, this is a boatload of recent corruption cases in one state, even for a big one. And since I mostly track just criminal justice cases, there's little question I'm barely scratching the surface with the incidents listed above.
Rooting out public corruption doesn't seem to be high on anybody's priority list with the exception of the FBI, but the feds can't do it alone. State and local resources and attention must also be focused on the problem if we ever want to see systemic change instead of just a few symbolic heads hoisted on the occasional federal pike.