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Customs Agent Arrested for Accepting Bribes in Ecstasy Smuggling Scheme

A customs agent and his wife were arrested last night in Arizona on charges of accepting bribes to allow more than 600,000 fake ecstasy pills into the country.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer Henry M. Gauani, 41, and his wife Flora A. Gauani, 46, both of Yuma, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to accept a bribe by a public official, according to the Justice Department.

"Law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard because we rely on them to protect our communities and our borders," Diane J. Humetewa, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, said in a statement. "The vast majority of law enforcement officials are honest and hard working, and I appreciate the efforts of the federal agencies who weed out those who chose to betray the public's trust and confidence."

A complaint unsealed on Wednesday alleges that the Gauanis were paid $8,000 to allow 100,000 ecstasy pills into the country through Henry Gauani's inspection lane at the border crossing in Yuma, Ariz., in December 2008.

According to the complaint, an informant told federal authorities that the Gauanis allowed undocumented Chinese aliens to pass through Henry Gauani's inspection lane in the past. It also alleges that the couple agreed to facilitate the ecstasy transport with the informant.

They were allegedly to receive $25,000 to allow an additional shipment of 500,000 pills to cross the border from Mexico. All 600,000 pills were fake.

The Justice Department said the street value of 600,000 real ecstasy pills is almost $11 million.

"The facilitation of the distribution of illegal drugs by a public official will not be tolerated," said FBI Special Agent in charge John E. Lewis. "Whenever a law enforcement officer is charged with conspiracy to accept a bribe, the public's trust is diminished. Only the continued efforts by the FBI and its law enforcement partners will restore this trust. The fight against public corruption continues to be a top investigative priority of the FBI."

The Gauanis were released from federal custody and are set to appear before a federal judge for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 5.

If convicted, they face up to 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.


Correction: Earlier FOXNews.com regretfully stated incorrectly that Henry M. Gauani was a U.S. Border Patrol agent, not a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer.