A border protection officer claimed he was born in Texas when he's actually a native of Mexico and illegally obtained a job with the agency charged with protecting the nation's border, federal officials said Friday.
Marco Antonio De la Garza Jr., 37, faces criminal charges related to passport fraud and making false statements to U.S. Customs and Border Protection on his federal law enforcement background application, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona said in a news release.
An indictment filed Wednesday in Tucson said De la Garza lied about his citizenship in October during a background check update tied to his job.
"Specifically, it is alleged that De La Garza is a Mexican citizen who knowingly used a fraudulently obtained Texas birth certificate to apply for a United States passport, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. "Additionally, the indictment charges he knowingly and willfully used the same fraudulently obtained birth certificate to assert United States citizenship on his five-year background check to maintain employment as a United States Customs and Border Protection Officer."
Authorities said in court records that De la Garza claimed he was born in Brownsville, Texas, when he was actually born across the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico.
Investigators said the midwife who claimed De la Garza was born in Texas had a conviction for conspiring to make false statements on birth certificates in 1984. De la Garza's records from Mexico confirmed that he was registered for school using a Mexican birth record, according to court records.
While employment requirements for Customs and Border Protection include providing proof of U.S. citizenship, it's unclear how De la Garza was able to get his job despite not being an American citizen. The agency hired him in April 2012, spokeswoman Teresa Small told the Associated Press on Friday without giving further comment.
Customs and Border Protection issued a statement saying De la Garza was arrested on Feb. 22 in Douglas, Arizona but did not disclose his job status or explain how the agency came to hire a Mexican citizen as an officer.
Matthew H. Green, a Tucson attorney who represents De la Garza, declined comment to the AP.
The 37-year-old is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court on March 23.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.