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Fake Texas Department of Transportation vehicle used to haul drugs

Since 2005, federal and state law enforcement officials have known drug smugglers were using fake Texas Department of Transportation vehicles to haul their cargo all over the Lone Star State.

But, more than two years later, and despite a major prosecution of the 11 people involved in the scam by Johnny Sutton of the U.S. attorney’s office – the official known for handing two Border Patrol agents jail sentences of more than 10 years apiece – the fraudulent trucks are still being found carrying their illicit loads.

In August, Texas state troopers found one of the fake trucks in East Texas carrying 1,000 pounds of marijuana.

The truck had a TxDOT logo on the door, but reflective stripes on the side of the vehicle were slightly different from official trucks.

Now, more than two years later after 11 people were sentenced in helping with the scam, Texas DOT is putting its employees on alert statewide.

In July 2006, U.S. Attorney Sutton announced the sentencing of 11 on mail fraud charges connected with the drug trafficking operation. However, none of those convicted received sentences like Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, the two Border Patrol agents still serving their sentences of 11 and 12 years each in an incident involving their attempted apprehension of a drug smuggler.

The longest jail sentence handed out in the fake DOT trucks case was 27 months. Many of those convicted only paid fines.

The case of Ramos and Compean has stirred a national controversy, and their stiff sentence has placed Sutton in the political crosshairs.

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Drugs discovered in fake Texas Department of Transportation truck

Last week, President Bush’s spokeswoman, Dana Perino, brushed off a request from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., for the Bush administration to review the their case.

Rohrabacher had made the request, arguing that for 10 months Ramos and Compean have been in conditions more severe than experienced by terrorists held by the U.S. at the Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The congressman also said he has written to Manhattan federal trial judge Michael Mukasey, Bush’s nominee to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, demanding that upon confirmation Mukasey conduct an unbiased review of the agents’ prosecution.

Ramos and Compean received sentences of 11 and 12 years respectively for their actions in the shooting and wounding of Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican illegal who was fleeing across the Mexican border and resisting arrest after having smuggled 750 pounds of marijuana into the U.S.

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Fake Texas Department of Transportation vehicle used to haul drugs

In a fact sheet comparison of Gitmo Camp 4, the medium-security terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and the solitary confinement experienced by Ramos and Compean under the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Rohrabacher claims the former border agents’ spend 23 hours per day in their cells, with only one hour permitted outdoors per day.

Camp 4 Gitmo detainees, according to the fact sheet, are allowed to live in a communal setting that permits up to nine hours per day in outside exercise and recreational facilities that included covered picnic tables and ping-pong tables, as well as access to soccer fields and volleyball courts.

Ramos and Compean began serving their federal prison sentences on Jan. 17, while their cases were yet under appeal.



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