September 24, 2012
Terence “T.J.” Bonner (see photo) headed a union that guards our borders from illegal entries from Mexico and Canada. Unfortunately, for years he allegedly engaged in illegal entries of his own – in the union’s coffers and books. On August 16, a San Diego federal grand jury indicted Bonner on 11 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy for his diversion of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) for his own use. Until his retirement last year, Bonner had headed the council for more than two decades. Prosecutors say that he and an unindicted co-conspirator, a union official, defrauded members and concealed the thefts by submitting false financial statements. At his August 20 arraignment, Bonner pleaded not guilty to all counts. A conviction would be a sad career ending for someone truly committed to national security.
The NBPC, an affiliate of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), represents roughly 14,000 dues-paying law enforcement agents and support staff of the U.S. Border Patrol. The Border Patrol is part of Customs and Border Protection, which in turn is a component of the Department of Homeland Security. Many of these employees risk their safety each day to prevent illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and other lawbreakers from crossing our borders. T.J. Bonner, now 59, a resident of the San Diego-area border town of Campo, Calif., gave every appearance of being a dedicated public servant. He was an outspoken advocate for Border Patrol agents and their union, raising the level of public awareness of the need for more effective border control. When Agent Brian Terry, part of a four-man Border Patrol Tactical Unit, was murdered by a group of armed Mexican thugs in December 2010 in an unpopulated area in Arizona, Bonner minced no words. “This is an unspeakable tragedy,” he said. “The gun battle occurred in an area 15-18 miles within the United States, in one of many areas along the border with Mexico that is out of control.” Bonner added that those who claim our Mexican border has become safe “either don’t have a good grasp of the situation or are lying deliberately.” The U.S. Justice Department this past July indicted five suspects in that case.
What rank and file didn’t know was that since the early years of his presidency, which began in 1989, their boss likely had been pilfering funds from the NBPC till. On numerous occasions, Bonner allegedly obtained reimbursements for ostensibly union-related activities that went for personal use. The indictment noted: “These false claims included periods of time when Bonner was actually visiting his mistress in Chicago or family members, as well as trips to attend non-Union activities, such as hockey games and other sporting events.” He also received expense voucher reimbursements for vacations, clothing purchases and up to $800 a year to “purchase one or more gifts and/or meals for their spouse or ‘significant other’ and/or children at any time of their choosing.”