In a case that echoes the plot of popular AMC show ‘Breaking Bad’, a Miami-based college professor who wrote a book about laundering dirty money put those skills to use by laundering money for corrupt Venezuelan officials, according to the Justice Department.
Bruce Bagley, 73, who teaches international studies at the University of Miami and wrote the book “Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in the Americas Today,” was charged with laundering about $2.5 million between November 2017 and October 2018.
In a press release, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said: “Bruce Bagley, a college professor and author of the book Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in the Americas Today, allegedly opened bank accounts for the express purpose of laundering money for corrupt foreign nationals. Moreover, the funds Bagley was allegedly laundering were the proceeds of bribery and corruption, stolen from the citizens of Venezuela. Today’s charges of money laundering and conspiracy should serve as an object lesson for Bruce Bagley, who now faces a potential tenure in federal prison.”
The officials with whom Bagley cooperated weren’t named, but the details of the scheme were laid out in the indictment. Bagley opened bank accounts connected to shell companies in the US then received transfers from foreign accounts, which he then withdrew in the form of a cashiers check and turned over to an account connected to corrupt officials.
In or about November 2016, BRUCE BAGLEY, a professor of international studies with publication credits including the book Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in the Americas Today, opened a bank account (“Account-1”) on behalf of a company (“Company-1”) that BAGLEY owned and controlled. Between in or about November 2016 and in or about November 2017, Account-1 had minimal activity. In or about November 2017, Account-1 began receiving monthly deposits of hundreds of thousands of dollars from bank accounts located in Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (the “Overseas Accounts”). Each month, BAGLEY would receive a deposit of approximately $200,000 from one of the Overseas Accounts into Account-1.
Thereafter, he would withdraw approximately 90 percent of the funds in the form of a cashier’s check, payable to an account held by another individual (“Individual-1”). BAGLEY would send the remainder of the funds to his personal account. BAGLEY and Individual-1 would visit the bank together to complete these transactions. Between in or about November 2017 and in or about October 2018, Account-1 received approximately $2.5 million from the Overseas Accounts.
The Overseas Accounts belonged to a Colombian individual (“Individual-2”). BAGLEY and Individual-1 discussed the fact that they were moving Individual-2’s funds and that the funds represented the proceeds of foreign bribery and embezzlement stolen from the Venezuelan people. Despite this fact, BAGLEY continued to receive money from accounts belonging to Individual-2, and continued to pass the majority of those funds to Individual-1. Moreover, BAGLEY entered into sham contracts that purported to justify the transfer of Individual-2’s funds into Account-1.
When Bagley’s unnamed co-conspirator came under scrutiny from federal officials, Bagley helped him open a new bank account after a previous account was shut down for suspicious activity.
In or about October 2018, Account-1 was shut down for suspicious activity. Nevertheless, in or about December 2018, BAGLEY provided Individual-1 with information for a new bank account (“Account-2”) in order to transfer additional money belonging to Individual-2. On two occasions, BAGLEY received funds into Account-2 after Individual-1 had told BAGLEY that the funds represented the proceeds of bribery and public corruption. BAGLEY transferred the majority of these funds to Individual-1 but retained approximately 10 percent as a commission for his services.
Bagley is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.