The National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents the country’s roughly 20,000 Border Patrol agents, is missing about $500,000 from its El Paso accounts and the FBI is investigating, ProPublica reported.
The investigative journalism website reported that rumors have spread since 2018 that the coffers of the El Paso sector had been looted through an embezzlement scheme, after a change in leadership. Last November, union President Brandon Judd told Border Patrol agents in El Paso that nearly half a million dollars had gone missing.
ProPublica obtained an audio recording of that meeting, in which Judd revealed that forensic auditors had determined $352,389 was misappropriated and $150,036 that was supposed to be paid to the IRS in taxes disappeared.
“Somebody pocketed it, just up and walked away,” Judd told the agents.
Now the FBI is trying to determine who is responsible for draining the bank accounts, according to Judd, although the bureau would not comment to ProPublica. The U.S. Department of Labor, which can investigate allegations of corruption in unions, is also aware of the situation, but would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation, the website reported.
An agent and union member told ProPublica anonymously the situation was “a slap in the face.”
“This place is notorious for having people in leadership positions who don’t have any leadership skills — and that’s both in management and the union,” the agent said.
Judd said the auditors found “many, many discrepancies” over a decade’s span, but he wouldn’t identify suspects in the probe. Agents who spoke anonymously to ProPublica pointed at Robert Russell, head of the local from 2014 to 2017, and his sister, Dawn Munoz, who handled the finances and prepared the taxes. After Russell stepped down in the spring of 2018, the local fired Munoz.
Russell, who continues to work for the Border Patrol, told ProPublica no money disappeared during his time as president.
“I don’t think there’s any money missing,” he said.