Customs agent gets 32 months for bribery

Published on Thu, Apr 10, 2008 by Tara Nelson

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Customs agent gets 32 months for bribery

By Tara Nelson

A U.S. Customs agent convicted of trading sex from a Canadian prostitute for entry into the United States was sentenced Monday to 32 months in jail and two additional years of supervision.

Desmone Bastian, 33, of Vancouver, B.C., was convicted in a Seattle U.S. District Court in January of accepting a bribe – a charge that could have carried as many as 15 years in prison, U.S. Attorney’s Office officials said.

Jury members there were unable to reach a verdict on two other charges and found him not guilty of aiding and abetting the importation of marijuana and oxycontin, which Vancouver prostitute Sandra Maas had hidden in her underwear.

Bastian, a U.S. citizen residing in Canada, worked for U.S. Customs and Border Protection as a Customs officer, screening vehicles and drivers seeking to cross into the United States at the Blaine Port of Entry until late 2006, after an investigation that led to his arrest.
According to U.S. Department of Justice officials, Bastian repeatedly allowed Maas, with whom he had a sexual relationship, to pass into the U.S. simply by waving her in.

According to records and testimony at trial, he first sought out Maas through a Vancouver escort service owner and paid her for sex in 2001 or 2002, at one point even wearing his uniform to the brothel. Then, in late 2004, Bastian told Maas about his job, at which point he no longer paid for sex. Instead, he allowed her to cross the border through his lane on multiple occasions without checking her car or referring her to inspections.

Maas, who testified at trial, brought numerous large loads of “BC Bud” marijuana across the border by coordinating with Bastian as to which lane he was working so she could avoid detection.

Authorities later discovered Bastian’s number on her cell phone, and said that several calls between the two coincided with crossings Maas had made dating back several years.

Officials discovered their arrangement when Maas was stopped and arrested in April 2006, with a load of oxycontin hidden in her bra and panties. Maas later pleaded guilty and her sentence was reduced to two years in prison after she agreed to a plea bargain with U.S. government officials to testify against Bastian.

U.S. District Judge James Robart said Bastian had demonstrated a “propensity to deny and blame others,” and that his testimony “regarding the nature, duration and frequency of encounters with the woman was not credible.”

Assistant United States Attorney Susan Roe told the court Monday it “is a sad day at this courthouse when a federal official is being sentenced for bribery.”