CBP officer separates from agency after harassment plea

Published on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent based in Blaine is no longer with the agency after pleading guilty to felony harassment charges in August.

Joel Helle, 56, has not been employed as a CBP officer since the end of August, CBP spokesman Mike Milne said. Milne said he could not disclose details other than that because they are a personnel matter.

Earlier in August, Helle pleaded guilty to one count of felony harassment – threats to kill – in connection with an altercation he had with a British Columbia man on I-5 near Mount Vernon.

Helle was sentenced to one month of partial confinement by a Skagit County Superior Court judge on August 5.

He was put on unpaid suspension as soon as CBP officials became aware of his arrest in Skagit County in April, Milne said. Helle had worked for CBP for nine years and has a total of 20 years in law enforcement.

According to the Washington State Patrol, Helle grabbed the B. C. man by the throat, drawing blood, after both cars pulled onto the shoulder of I-5. Helle, who was dressed in plain clothes at the time, thought the victim of the harassment had tried to force Helle off the road because he was a CBP officer. Helle eventually drove off after the victim and the victim's passenger did not answer Helle's questions. Passersby who saw Helle grab the victim called police.