Douglas border agent accused of lying, disguising $70K in deposits

A federal grand jury has indicted a Douglas-based Border Patrol agent on suspicion of lying to law enforcement and concealing funds from authorities.

Oscar Cornejo, 39, was charged with making false statements during a background check, concealing $500,000 from creditors, and structuring $70,000 he deposited into Mexican bank accounts to avoid detection by federal authorities.

The July 5 indictment in U.S. District Court in Tucson alleged Cornejo made false statements about how often he crossed the border into Mexico and whether he had ever been charged with a felony.

During his January background check, Cornejo said he had traveled to Mexico twice in the previous seven years. He added in the comments section of the form that “I live in a border town. I do sometimes go have dinner across the border in the local restaurants.”

The indictment alleged he crossed the border 1,200 times from 2012 to 2017 and had established his primary residence in Agua Prieta, Sonora, which is directly across the border from Douglas.

Although he said he lived in Douglas, surveillance and border crossing records indicated Cornejo crossed the border into the United States prior to his shifts, returned to Mexico after his shifts, and spent most of his days off in Mexico, according to the June 9 criminal complaint.

Cornejo also said he had never been charged with a felony. However, the indictment alleged he was charged in 1996 with three felonies in Florida, including two counts of retaliating against a witness and one count of aggravated battery.

The indictment alleged Cornejo made structured cash deposits into bank accounts in Agua Prieta to avoid triggering reporting requirements.

In February and March, Cornejo deposited $69,700 into Mexican bank accounts. Each deposit was less than $10,000, which prosecutors alleged was done to avoid requirements to report the deposits.

In one example, Cornejo deposited $1,999 from a U.S. bank account into a Mexican account on Feb. 3. The same day, he deposited $394 from a different U.S. account into a Mexican account and $1,666 from a third U.S. account to a Mexican account. He made similar deposits on 12 days in February and three days in March, according to the indictment.

Cornejo also was charged with concealing assets from creditors during bankruptcy proceedings, including $500,000 deposited into bank accounts from May 2, 2016 to March 31, 2017. Other assets included a 2006 Hummer bought Feb. 25 and a 2015 GMC Terrain bought April 13.

Cornejo was released on his own recognizance June 12, court records show. Among his conditions of release are prohibitions against possessing a firearm and traveling outside of Arizona.

The background check was done “as part of his five year suitability investigation for continued employment with the United States Border Patrol,” according to the complaint.

Cornejo was placed on unpaid, indefinite suspension, the Border Patrol said in a statement sent in response to an inquiry from the Arizona Daily Star. He worked at the agency for 15 years and his last position was supervisory Border Patrol agent at the Douglas station.

The agency said it did not condone misconduct by agents and cooperates fully with any investigation of misconduct.

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