SAN DIEGO -- A former Border Patrol agent in El Centro who tried to smuggle nearly 750 pounds of marijuana across the border in his patrol vehicle was sentenced to five years in federal prison.

Luis Francisco Higareda, who was sentenced Monday, had pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

"Nothing is more important to the security of the people of this community than the detection and prosecution of corrupt law enforcement agents," U.S. Attorney Carol Lam said. "I commend the investigative work by the United States Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI which led to this prosecution."

According to court documents, on Jan. 4, federal agents received a tip that a uniformed U.S. Border Patrol agent in a marked vehicle was going to pick up marijuana near the border.

Several agencies working together conducted surveillance at the suspected location provided by the tipster, prosecutors said. At about 10 p.m., agents observed the driver, later identified as the 30-year-old Higareda, meet with co-conspirators , prosecutors said. One of the co-conspirators transferred 10 duffle bags of marijuana into Higareda's marked unit, authorities said.

Higareda was off-duty at the time of the incident, but was wearing his Border Patrol uniform, driving the marked unit, and was scheduled to work later that evening, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Walker Hobson.

After meeting with his co-conspirators, Higareda drove the marked unit away from the border, but was stopped without incident by federal authorities, the prosecutor said.

The marijuana found inside Higareda vehicle had a street value of $600,000, the prosecutor said.