Professor cited as corruption expert convicted of money laundering

Bruce Bagley is a recognized expert on crime and corruption in Latin America, writing books on the subject and serving as a reference for journalists.

But at the same time, prosecutors said, Dr Bagley, a retired University of Miami professor, was himself involved in a bribery and corruption program in Venezuela.

On Tuesday, Dr Bagley, 75, in poor health, was sentenced by a Manhattan federal judge to six months in prison for money laundering.

“I am ashamed of my irresponsible behavior,” Dr. Bagley said via Zoom before Manhattan US District Court Judge Jed Rakoff, according to the Associated Press. “I have spent my life as an academic working to understand and improve conditions in many Latin American countries, and being here today is the biggest change from the life I longed for. . “

Dr Bagley, a former professor of international studies, used bank accounts in his name and that of a company he set up in Florida to launder about $ 2.5 million, keeping a commission to himself- same, prosecutors said. They said he personally raised $ 192,000 from November 2017 to September 2018 as part of the scheme, adding that the money was “stolen from the citizens of Venezuela.” Dr Bagley pleaded guilty in June 2020 to two counts of money laundering, prosecutors said.

Peter Quijano, an attorney for Dr Bagley, declined to comment on Tuesday. In court documents this month, he pleaded for no jail time and time served, noting that the non-violent crime was his client’s first criminal conviction, that Dr Bagley was in poor health and that he had an otherwise distinguished career as a teacher and mentor.

Mr Quijano also said Dr Bagley had already suffered “serious collateral consequences” as a result of his conviction: irreparable damage to his career and reputation and the stress that plagued his wife before her death this year. Mr Quijano described Dr Bagley as an unwavering dedication to his wife.

“He is overcome with dark thoughts that his arrest, in fact, precipitated his death,” Quijano wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Prosecutors had argued for a sentence less than the guidelines of 46 to 57 months, but did not say exactly how much less. In court documents this month, prosecutors said that while Dr Bagley’s age and health needed to be taken into consideration, some incarceration was needed to have a deterrent effect.

In court Tuesday, Judge Rakoff said a sentence of up to five years, as federal guidelines recommend, would be “irrational” and “too punitive,” according to the AP. But like prosecutors, the judge said jail time was necessary. The judge recommended that Dr Bagley’s sentence be served in a medical facility, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Justice.

According to prosecutors, Dr Bagley opened a bank account in Florida under his company name, Bagley Consultants, in 2016. But there was virtually no activity on the account until a year later, when he said. began receiving large deposits from bank accounts in the United States. United Arab Emirates and Switzerland.

These accounts ostensibly belonged to a food company and a wealth management company, but were in reality controlled by a Colombian national whose money came “from the proceeds of foreign bribery and embezzlement of funds stolen from the Venezuelan people,” according to the report. an indictment.

Dr Bagley knew the source of the money and entered into “several fictitious contracts” in order to cover it up, according to the indictment.

After each deposit, Dr Bagley went to his bank and received a cashier’s check for about 90% of the money, which he then gave to someone else, and transferred the rest to his personal bank account, according to the indictment.

In October 2018, the bank closed the company’s account due to suspicious activity, according to the indictment. But Dr Bagley opened another account in his name in December and continued the program until April 2019, receiving at least 14 illegal deposits, prosecutors said.

Although Dr Bagley lives in Florida and the laundered funds were sent to banks in Florida, prosecutors said they were pursuing the case in Manhattan because the money was going through New York because it came from the United States. foreigner.

Prosecutors said a prominent Colombian businessman, Alex Saab, was also involved in the scheme. Mr Saab, known as a financial agent for President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, was extradited last month by the United States on charges of money laundering on American soil, his attorney said, making de him one of the highest supporters of Mr. Maduro. be detained in the United States.

Dr Bagley has studied organized crime in Latin America for decades and has published frequently on the subject. He edited an academic book published in 2015 entitled “Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Violence in the Americas Today”. Another book he edited, on the relations between countries and organized crime, came out in 2019.

Over the years, he has been cited numerous times in media reports on drug trafficking, including New York Times articles on the international drug trade and NPR articles on the ongoing political crisis in the country. Venezuela.

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