The smuggling of rare zoo animals, drug trafficking, illegal arms dealing and more criminal activity is aided and abetted at the U.S. border every day by U.S. Customs officials, according to a whistleblower.
John Carman, a former Customs officer with a background of meritorious employment as a White House Secret Service agent, an officer in the U.S. Mint and an officer with the San Diego police, told WorldNetDaily the Customs Department is filled with corrupt officials and incompetent officers who go along to get along. In an exclusive interview he gave examples of the corruption he has witnessed. However, his complaints over the past 15 years have not led to anything but his own job termination.
Carman illustrates his overall charge with specific accusations.
“This endangered white tiger, which was owned by Caliente Racetrack owner Jorge Hank-Rhon, was being smuggled without proper permits into Tijuana for his personal zoo. Jorge Hank-Rhon is a known Customs violator and drug trafficker,” said Carman.
Despite the alleged illegal activities of Hank-Rhon, customs officials have continued to give him a free pass, said Carman.
The tiger was seized by Customs inspectors at the U.S. border headed into Tijuana from the San Diego Zoo. Carman says that was an accident, and that Hank-Rhon’s friends in customs slipped up. A great deal of other illegal traffic gets to its destination more successfully.
Carman claims Hank-Rhon maintains a close, personal friendship with certain Customs officials, including former district director Alan J. Rappoport, Customs port director Jerry Martin and branch chief Jack Maryon.
Maryon was the branch chief at Otay Mesa customs office. Carman says that Maryon ordered him to give Hank-Rhon a free pass.
A special computer system is used to enable various law enforcement agencies to enter information about known criminals to alert others and help apprehend them. Carman says when he tried to enter information about Hank-Rhon into the system, he was stopped by Maryon.
“Hank-Rhon is a known violator and has smuggled hundreds of thousands of U.S. currency into or out of the United States on various occasions,” Carman said. “He has also been caught smuggling into his own country of Mexico at Mexico City and has never been incarcerated yet. He merely pays people off and gets his way. He is very rich and operates on the golden rule. He who has the most gold, makes the rules. Hank-Rhon was identified to me as involved in drug smuggling years ago. He is a known smuggler.”
The U.S. Customs internal affairs office has conducted investigations of Hank-Rhon and his relationships with Martin, Rappoport and Maryon. The FBI and other federal agencies also have investigated.
“They did nothing about these dangerous liaisons. It is against Treasury regulations to fraternize with known customs violators and felons. Hank-Rhon was later caught smuggling more currency at LAX international airport,” said Carman.
He said the number of Customs officials on the take is alarming.
“They go to parties and they do all kinds of weird, strange things,” said Carman. “I don’t want to get into the details, but they’re obviously in bed with them (criminals) and they’re obviously taking money. The problem is, internal affairs will not investigate certain people. Internal affairs is protecting certain people for certain reasons. That’s very bothersome, because you can’t investigate yourself.”
Getting anything done about the problem is difficult because the system has become so entrenched with corruption at all levels.
“There’s people in Customs that will lie at work, they’ll lie under oath, they’ll make up reports on narcotics seizures, act like they participated in something. I’ve even seen cases where they planted evidence on people. There was a lady who got promoted who planted a joint on some poor travelers because she didn’t like them. That’s so wrong and contradictory to what we stand for in the United States. It’s crazy. It’s totally unbelievable the stuff that I’ve seen,” said Carman.
Another incident he reported involved 150 kilos of cocaine that was seized by Customs — and then turned up missing.
“I noted the Justice Department had a complaint from the supervisor about it. You don’t just lose a load of 150 kilos of cocaine,” said Carman.
It wasn’t long after Carman began a long string of complaints about such incidents that he nearly lost his life. While inspecting cars coming across the Mexican border, Carman worked in an enclosed area where car exhaust levels became dangerously high. Blowers were used to keep the exhaust from building up.
Someone turned off the blowers while Carman was working. He survived, but just barely. He was so toxic that it took nearly a year to recover. There have been death threats, too.
Carman says he has suffered from harassment and intimidation in an attempt to stop his complaints. In response, he has just complained more.
“They will lie, cheat and steal to protect the agency. They don’t care. The American public is going to suffer on this stuff ultimately, as it already is, because they’re claiming the ‘big drug war this,’ the ‘big drug war that.’ Well, they’re wasting time. They make it look like they’re doing something, but they’re not,” said Carman of his reasons for making his information public.
In 1985 Carman seized 480 grams of heroin. The Customs officials wanted him to give it to the Mexican narcotics investigators. He questioned the request because it was not proper procedure. Evidence was always held for legal actions.
“I reported that to internal affairs and they didn’t do anything about it,” Carman said. He believes the heroin was given back anyway and was eventually brought back over the border successfully.
“I stopped a sea container (from China) that was supposed to go south,” he recalls. “It came out of the country as a T and E (transportation and exportation) through Long Beach to go to San Diego to go to Guadalajara, Mexico. I specifically wanted to check that transport to make sure it didn’t have weapons. I held it over for an intensive inspection and supervisor Phil Fuentes signed it off without even inspecting it when I was on my day off the next day. I would have come back in and done it myself if they wanted me to,” said Carman, describing another infraction.
Complaints to internal affairs again resulted in no action.
Sometimes when customs agents discover illegal substances they permit the criminal to continue along so they can follow and perhaps apprehend even more violators.
But, sometimes, Carman says, this procedure is abused when officials take a payoff for “losing the load.” A complaint of this kind against San Diego Customs internal affairs agent-in-charge Tom Ribsyk was ignored by the Justice Department, according to Carman. It was Ribsyk who was receiving many of the complaints from Carman. But it was Ribsyk who was covering up the problems, according to Carman.
In June, Carman was stopped by La Mesa Police when he was driving in his car with his 13-year-old daughter. He was pulled over for having tinted windows. The police then revealed they had been ordered to follow and stop him by Ribsyk.
That incident led to a court case, which Carman is now using to pursue the means of exposing the evidence he has compiled. He has won some preliminary rounds and expects to prevail in his efforts to expose the crisis of corruption he believes confronts the U.S. Customs Department.
Two spokesmen for the U.S. Customs public affairs office deny knowing anything about Carman’s claims.
Vincent Bond of the San Ysidro, California office said he had never heard of Carman and was not familiar with his complaints. An inquiry to the main office in Washington, D.C. brought the same response.