Florida College Professor Facing Federal Money Laundering Charges

By - November 19, 2019
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A professor at the University of Miami was arrested on federal charges last week after he allegedly laundered corruption proceeds from a book he co-wrote about organized crime. The money allegedly was laundered in Venezuela. (NBCMiami.com).

Professor Bruce Bagley has been accused by the US Department of Justice in a federal investigation of opening bank accounts that laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars from accounts in Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. US Department of Justice officials reported the funds came from a corruption and bribery scheme that stole money from the citizens of Venezuela.

In a federal press release, prosecutors stated that Bagley would take out $200,000 per month from an overseas bank account. He then would take out 90% of the money as a cashier’s check, and put the rest of the money in his personal bank account.

According to William F. Sweeney Jr., the head of the New York City office of the FBI, the only lesson that can be learned from Bagley this week is that involving yourself in bribery, money laundering, corruption, and embezzlement will lead to a federal indictment. (Mysuncoast.com).

From November 2017 until October 2018, it is believed Bagley obtained at least $2.5 million from accounts abroad.

The college professor, a 73-year-old Coral Gables resident, is facing a single count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of money laundering. Each charge could get him up to 20 years in prison.

According to the University of Miami press office, it was made aware of the federal indictment that was filed against Bagley. Because of that development, he was put on immediate administrative leave.

As It Turns Out, Bagley Knew Too Much About Money Laundering

For decades, the University of Miami professor was the go-to source for journalists who wanted to understand money laundering, drug trafficking, organized crime and government graft in Latin America. But in recent years, federal agents say he became deeply involved in the corruption he studies, as he helped to launder $3 million in dirty money from Venezuela. (Washingtonpost.com)

After his arrest this week, Bagley told CBS Miami that he ‘felt fine,’ and was not guilty of federal crimes.

Consultant for Federal Agencies, A Top Expert in Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering

Bagley has been considered one of the top experts in his profession, serving as a consultant to the State Department, FBI, DEA, and other related federal agencies. He has testified before Congress, was an expert witness in high-profile trials, and gave his expertise on various criminal topics, including money laundering to the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama, and Mexico.

Erick Cruz, who is a defense attorney in Miami that Bagley turned to as an expert witness in a cocaine trafficking trial in October, told the Miami media that he was shocked at Bagley’s arrest. As a student at the University of Miami, he took Bagley’s course ‘Drug Trafficking in the Americas.’

As an international relations professor, Bagley wrote academic articles titled The Hundred Years War? US Nationaal Security and the War on Drugs in Latin America. In a 2002 paper, he said that Russian criminal gangs were offering low-risk money laundering services to many drug traffickers in South America, sometimes charging 30% of the proceeds.

Frequently Quoted in the Media

Bagley also was frequently in the press; he was in a 1993 story in The Washington Post about Panama cocaine trafficking. He was noted to be a ‘University of Miami money-laundering expert.’ Reporters from the New York Times and NPR recently asked for his thoughts on topics including the government’s attempts to fight drug trafficking abroad and January 2019 protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Just before Bagley was arrested, he was quoted as an authority in a Politifact story about the value of the drugs being trafficked over the American border. (Washingtonpost.com)

In January, Bagley spoke to The Washington Post for a story about Joquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Loera, who was being tried in Brooklyn. Bagley said that you cannot just ‘lop off the head’ of the Sinaloa cartel. Decentralization makes it difficult to track down, capture and arrest everyone involved.

Allegedly Corrupt Activities Began in the Past Few Years

But in recent years, according to federal prosecutors, Bagley was lured by the temptation of easy money to funnel funds that were probably derived from corruption and graft related to public works projects in Venezuela into the US.

Federal records show that Bagley and his spouse started a business called Bagley Consultants Inc. in 2005. The company was hardly active in its first decade. But before the company was dissolved by the Florida Department of State in 2017, Bagley opened a bank account in the company’s name. Then at the end of 2017, he started to get deposits each month of $200,000 each. The money was issued from a bank account in the UAE, which allegedly was opened by a food company.

In reality, according to federal prosecutors, the illegal money was coming from a man in Columbia. The funds were from foreign bribery and embezzlement money stolen from Venezuelan taxpayers.

The federal indictment stated that Bagley would go to a bank in Weston, Florida, and use a cashier’s check to put money into the bank account, with 90% of the money going to the business and the rest going to the personal account belonging to Bagley.

To hide where the money was coming from, Bagley initiated fake contracts with the Columbian citizen. But the bank closed his business account in October 2018, noting possible suspicious activity. But Bagley just opened another account so that he could continue to get his cut of the money.

In February 2019, federal investigators launched a sting to see if Bagley would accept a wire of $244,000. He was told the money came from bribes in Venezuela, but he moved the funds and kept $44,000.

Geoffrey G. Nathan, Esq.

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