Former INS agent sentenced for illegal alien scheme |

Former INS agent sentenced for illegal alien scheme

LOS ANGELES – A former immigration agent was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Monday for his role in smuggling illegal aliens.

Jesse Jerry Gardona was sentenced on a count of conspiracy to accept bribes and to harbor and transport illegal immigrants. He pleaded guilty in September.

Gardona, 41, of Studio City, was a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Prosecutors said he was a special agent assigned to an anti-smuggling unit in 1988 when he arranged for the release of about 10 illegal immigrants who were held in custody.

The immigrants were held for ransom by 34-year-old Jose Jesus Quintanilla-Guzman, a Mexican national living in Los Angeles. Some immigrants’ families paid up to $1,800, prosecutors said.

Quintanilla, who earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy, was sentenced Monday to 34 months in prison. He is currently is serving two prison sentences totaling 26 1/2 years for cocaine smuggling and illegally re-entering the country after being deported last year.

Quintanilla’s girlfriend, Leticia Chavez, 24, of Huntington Park, was sentenced last fall to time served after pleading guilty to charges in the case. She spent nearly five months in prison.

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