Thursday, September 05, 2013

Bolivia’s anti-corruption chief charged with extorting airline executive in Miami

CORRUPTION • A high-ranking Bolivian National Police official was sitting in a South Florida jail Thursday on U.S. charges that he tried to extort thousands of dollars from the former owner of a Bolivian airline.

By JAY WEAVER / Miami Herald

Mario Fabricio Ormachea Aliaga. Photo © ENewsTV
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.— The Bolivian government’s top anti-corruption cop is locked up in a downtown jail cell, accused of shaking down a foreign businessman here for $30,000 in exchange for making criminal charges brought against him back home go away.

Bolivian National Police Col. Mario Fabricio Ormachea Aliaga might be stuck in the Miami Federal Detention Center until trial, after the FBI arrested him on a charge of extorting Bolivian businessman Humberto Roca in Miami.

Ormachea, who has a bond hearing Friday, flew from Bolivia to Miami last week to meet with Roca about resolving the charges against the former owner of Aerosur Airlines in his native country. But instead of meeting with the colonel right away, Roca, on the advice of his lawyer, contacted the FBI — leading to his undercover role in a quickie sting operation that ended with Ormachea’s arrest Saturday.

After Roca initially gave Ormachea $5,000 as a down payment toward the alleged extortion demand, the colonel acknowledged meeting with Roca on two occasions, but denied trying to extort him, according to an FBI affidavit filed with a criminal complaint. Ormachea also told FBI agents that he had not traveled to Miami in his official role.

But Roca’s lawyer painted a sinister portrait of Ormachea, saying that he and other senior Bolivian government officials, including President Evo Morales, have orchestrated a campaign of political persecution against his client, who is now seeking asylum in the United States.

“This vindicates him,” attorney Michael Diaz Jr. told the Miami Herald. “We have been saying for quite some time that the Bolivian government has been shaking him down after stripping him of his business. When he wouldn’t play ball with them, he had to seek political asylum for himself and his family in the United States.”
Ormachea’s lawyer, assistant federal public defender Sowmya Bharathi, declined to comment about the charges, and said she will seek to have his bond hearing continued until Sept. 13. Prosecutor John Byrne is seeking the colonel’s detention before trial.



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