updated 10/13/2007 12:31:25 AM ET 2007-10-13T04:31:25

A former U.S. Border Patrol agent pleaded guilty Friday to taking $100 for each carload of illegal immigrants that he helped get past one of his agency's highway checkpoints.

Jose Olivas Jr. admitted scouting a Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 5, north of San Diego, in his personal vehicle and then calling an accomplice to give him an all-clear to follow.

Olivas, 46, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to smuggle aliens and one count of conspiring to launder money. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison; a prosecutor said the government will likely seek to three to five years.

Olivas, a Border Patrol agent for 10 years, admitted helping more than 100 illegal immigrants get into the United States from January 2006 until his arrest in January.

The former agent likely helped smuggle "hundreds" and pocketed $10,000 to $15,000 for his crimes, said Christopher Ott, an assistant U.S. attorney.

Olivas did not say why he risked his career and freedom for such a small sum.

U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz scheduled sentencing Jan. 16.

Smuggling ring
Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Olivas got into smuggling after becoming romantically involved with another defendant in the case, Maria Del Pilar Fierro Herrera, who is at-large. Olivas' attorney, Elizabeth Missakian, did not immediately respond to a phone message after office hours.

The plea agreement says Olivas worked with others who brought illegal immigrants from Mexico at border crossings in California, including San Diego. He also admitted showing Border Patrol reports to members of the smuggling ring.

"The conduct of Mr. Olivas is serious and disturbing and potentially compromised the security of our borders," said Richard Skinner, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, who investigated the case with ICE and the Internal Revenue Service.

Two other defendants, Janmes Fierro Herrera and Rafael Hernandez Lozano, have pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced in November.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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