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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, December 04, 2012 6:55 pm

Deputy US marshal accused of blowing agent's cover


A deputy U.S. marshal was arrested in South Texas on Tuesday for allegedly disclosing the identity of an undercover agent to his father, who at the time was suspected of involvement in a drug trafficking organization, federal prosecutors said.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Lucio Osbaldo Moya's bond was set at $75,000. Moya, 29, of Rio Grande City, faces charges of being an accessory after the fact and obstruction. He could receive up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the accessory charge.

Moya stood alone in a blue golf shirt and jeans as U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos explained the charges against him and terms of his bond Tuesday afternoon. He did not speak during the brief proceeding and did not have a lawyer with him.

Reached by phone after the hearing, Moya's attorney Paul Looney said Moya had been prepared for his arrest after months of discussions with authorities, but denies any wrongdoing.

Besides setting the bond, Ramos ordered Moya to surrender his passport and restrict his travel to the Southern District of Texas. She said he would be under electronic monitoring and home detention, but also instructed him to find a job. The U.S. Attorney's office said Moya has been on paid administrative leave.

Moya became a deputy marshal in 2009, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

The U.S. Marshal's Service referred questions about the case to prosecutors.

Moya was charged separately from the drug trafficking case against his father and others. His father, Juan Norberto Moya, was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this year for smuggling marijuana.

In October 2011, Moya's father passed him a photocopied driver's license that an undercover Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent had shared with the men who employed him to drive tractor-trailer loads of marijuana from South Texas to Houston, according to court documents. Moya inquired at work about the owner of the driver's license, was told he was an undercover agent and relayed that information to his father.

After meeting with Moya, officials with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General immediately contacted the undercover agent's supervisor and advised that his identity may have been compromised, court records show. Later that day, ICE and Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested several men targeted in the smuggling investigation, including Moya's father.

Moya's explanation about where he had gotten the copy of the driver's license changed, according to court records. First, he told a fellow marshal that a confidential source had provided it and believed the man was smuggling truckloads of marijuana. Later, he said his father had given it to him and he hoped his father could become a paid informant, according to the records.

Moya also gave various descriptions of text messages he sent to his father, the court records show. First, he said he sent one message after learning it was an undercover agent that said "to be very careful and not to be hanging around illegal activity." Later, Moya told investigators that he had sent his father two text messages that said: "Dad where did you get this paper" and "Dad this guy is an agent; you can't tell anyone what is going on; and you will need to talk to someone here."

But the text messages were deleted.

The agents investigating the smuggling ring based in Starr County - Moya was from the county - discovered several weeks before Moya blew the agent's cover that one of their targets had a son who was a deputy marshal.

Looney said the accessory charge has to do with prosecutors' belief that Moya joined the conspiracy when telling his father about the undercover agent. The attorney said Moya informed agents about what he told his father and also urged the elder Moya to go and speak to authorities.

"He didn't know his father was involved in it," Looney said, adding that Moya only knew that his father had a past and thought maybe he "was still in touch with his old contacts."