EL PASO, Texas – An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent convicted of taking a $20,000 bribe was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in federal prison.
Santiago Efrain Valle, 44, was convicted in April of one count each of bribery and extortion under the color of law.
Valle denied that he offered to have an immigration charge dropped and the risk classification changed for a Mexican national jailed at the ICE detention center in El Paso in exchange for the bribe. He plans to appeal.
Valle, who could have received an 18-year sentence, received three years and eight months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.
Valle was arrested in 2006 after accepting the bribe from undercover federal agents. The agents learned about the bribe offer from a lawyer for the illegal immigrant, who was arrested in Alamogordo, N.M.
Christopher Antcliff, Valle's lawyer, asked for the lightest sentence possible.
"My client has worked in that camp for 10 years and to this day ... we maintain his innocence," Antcliff said. "He's a good man, who if the jury's verdict is to have any credibility, made a mistake."
U.S. District Judge David Briones said he agreed with the verdict.
"He's living in a fantasy world, sir," Briones said of Valle's claims of innocence.
Valle was placed on leave after his arrest. His employment status with ICE was unclear Thursday. He was ordered to report to prison Sept. 14.