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Homeland Security agent took bribes from organized crime, prosecutors charge

Michael Finnegan and Matthew Ormseth, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — A former agent in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was arrested Tuesday on charges he took at least $122,000 in bribes from an organized crime figure in return for help evading authorities.

Felix Cisneros Jr., 46, used his access to highly restricted law enforcement databases to provide inside information on investigations to the crime figure, who paid him off in 2015 and 2016, according to a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday.

Cisneros also tried to get one of the crime figure’s relatives admitted into the U.S. from Armenia, and he removed information about a German citizen with a criminal record from a U.S. government database to assist his attempts to enter the country, prosecutors say.

At the time, Cisneros was a Homeland Security Investigations agent who worked on narcotics, money laundering and human trafficking cases.

The crime figure was unnamed in the indictment. But court papers make clear it is Edgar Sargsyan, a Beverly Hills lawyer who has pleaded guilty to bribing a Homeland Security Investigations agent, among other crimes. A lawyer for Sargsyan has filed court papers naming Cisneros as the agent he bribed.

Cisneros, who lives in the Riverside County city of Murrieta, was first arrested in 2017. He was tried and convicted for, among other things, helping a Mexican criminal enter the U.S. and lying to a federal agent to cover it up. He was sentenced to a year in prison.

 

Cisneros pleaded not guilty to the new charges Tuesday in a Los Angeles federal court hearing conducted remotely. U.S. Magistrate Maria A. Audero set his trial for April 27.

Cisneros’ lawyer, George Mgdesyan, said the former agent’s latest arrest came as a surprise. He questioned the timing of the charges, which allege criminal conduct in the years prior to his previous arrest.

“I don’t know why it would be now, after my client was released from prison, after he thought he’d put it behind him,” Mgdesyan said.

Cisneros, an Army veteran who spent a decade as a Border Patrol agent before joining Homeland Security Investigations in 2007, was one of several law enforcement officials in the orbit of Sargsyan and another reputed organized crime figure, Lev Aslan Dermen.

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