Two Border Patrol agents were indicted on Thursday on charges in connection with forcing a group of suspected drug smugglers to eat marijuana, take off their clothes and flee into the cold desert night instead of arresting them.
Agents Dario Castillo, 23, and Ramon Zuniga, 29, both of Maricopa, are charged with conspiracy to deprive people of their civil rights, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Castillo and Zuniga were on duty Nov. 12, 2008, near the village of Pisinimo on the western side of the Tohono O’odham Reservation near the Border Patrol’s Papago Farms camp, shows the indictment.
The agents encountered four Mexican men who were part of larger group of drug smugglers. Instead of apprehending them, the agents forced them to eat marijuana and strip to their underwear. The agents set fire to their belongings and told the men to flee into the remote desert area on a night when temperatures were about 40 degrees, the indictment shows.
Castillo is also charged with tampering with a witness because the indictment says he tried to persuade a witness to not talk in an attempt to avoid being charged with a federal offense.
Castillo and Zuniga face up to 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine, or both, the news release says.