A corrupt U.S. border agent sitting in a federal prison cell is offering a chilling view of the Mexican drug cartels whose drug shipments he protected for years in return for hefty bribes.
He is so terrified of the cartel's famous vicious streak that he fears for his own life -- and the lives of his family -- if he is identified as speaking to ABC News. He depicts a dangerously paranoid crime organization that has spies throughout U.S. law enforcement.
To illustrate the cartel's pervasive reach, he said he got his introduction to them through an American cop. From there the former border patrol agent was convicted of shepherding cartel vehicles loaded with drugs safely over the border. Prosecutors say he profited handsomely, being paid $4,000 per car and $6,000 to escort vans - in addition to a $10,000 retainer fee.
According to the indictment, the agent's run came to an end after he unknowingly offered his services to other drug dealers-- who were undercover FBI agents. In the sting, the agent assisted the undercover agents in smuggling a huge shipment of cocaine into the U.S. He largely concedes the facts of the case against him, but insists there is more to his story.
U.S. Border Agents Seduced By Mexican Drug Cartels
"First and foremost, I was a USBP agent. But when the threat is real and it's on your own family... it turns into a whole new ball game," he said in a series of emails in which he answered questions put to him by ABC News.
"Regardless of my crime, I served my country and my community to the best of my abilities (above and beyond)... no one will ever take that away from me," he wrote.
The disgraced agent said the cartel was more powerful than the U.S. government and overrode his oath as a law enforcement officer.
"In my opinion they have unlimited power..they have informants of all kinds, good and bad," he said. "They have informants in the city level, county level and, from what they claim, federal."
"At the time I was just thinking of a possible life and death situation and DEATH had better odds than I had.... Until you are faced with a situation like mine... no one can really say what they could have done."
He said he first reached out to the cartels because it was a form of security. If he helped the cartels, he could keep his drug-dealing brothers in Mexico safe.
"Of course I knew I was taking a big risk. It went against everything I believed in and worked hard for," the agent said. "Yes, I was terrified of getting caught, but more terrified of losing my brothers."
At a softball game, the police officer introduced him to a man who had connections in the part of Mexico where his brothers' lives were being threatened and the guard believed they might be able to help his brothers if he worked with them. He did not know, however, that once he got involved with this dangerous world, it would be impossible to get out.
He also did not identify which of the Mexican drug cartels he dealt with.
"At first I was doing it for free because I wanted to get my brother's problems taken care of, but then I got whatever they gave me," he said. "They wouldn't take no for an answer and I had to play along."
In a world where suspicion could be fatal, the former guard said he had to accept the bribes in order to curb the cartel's paranoia.
"The money was not something I could say no to...because I had to make them believe that I was doing all I could to be on their good side," he wrote.
He communicated with the drug trafficking organizations by radio and sometimes in person, which he said was "scary and stressful."