Nov 12, 2013 3:45 PM by By Sarah Sanchez
TUCSON - Two suspended United State Border Patrol agents will serve time in Federal prison after being found guilty of civil rights offenses, according to the United States Attorney's Office.
Dario Castillo, 25, of Yuma and Ramon Zuniga, 31, of San Luis were ordered to self-surrender on or before Jan. 14, 2014 in order to serve their 2 year sentences, Cosme Lopez, spokesman for the US Attorney's Office, said in a press release.
Evidence during their trial in April 2013 showed that Zuniga and Castillo abused a group of individuals while working an operation to track and contact border crossers in Southern Arizona, the release stated.
The agents located a group of undocumented immigrants carrying backpacks containing marijuana, the release stated. Most of the individuals fled, but the defendants and 2 other agents managed to detain 4 people.
While searching the suspects, Zuniga discovered that one of them was carrying a small baggie of personal-use marijuana, the release added.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Zuniga then shoved the marijuana into several of the victims' mouths and yelled "cometela," which means ‘eat it' in Spanish.
The defendants also ordered the victims to take off their shoes, socks, jackets, and extra shirts, which the victims had layered to protect against the cold weather, the release stated.
Castillo also used a lighter to torch the victims' shoes and clothing, the release added. Zuniga and Castillo then ordered the victims to run away.
The 4 victims spent the night in the desert and were rescued the next morning by a Tribal Police Officer, the release stated.
A jury found Castillo guilty of 4 felony counts of deprivation of rights under color of law.
Zuniga was found guilty of 4 misdemeanor violations.
Following their 2 year sentences, both will serve a 3 year term of supervised release.
"The United States Attorney's Office will continue to hold accountable all federal law enforcement officers in Arizona who abuse their authority in violation of their oath of office," United States Attorney John S. Leonardo said in a statement. "Violations of the law by those sworn to enforce it undermine public confidence in the entire criminal justice system and will not be tolerated. The sentences imposed today reinforce the fundamental principle that no one, including a law enforcement officer, is above the law."