MIAMI (Reuters) - A former anti-corruption official in Bolivia’s government has been found guilty in a U.S. federal court of trying to extort tens of thousands of dollars from the former owner of a Bolivian airline.
A jury convicted Mario Ormachea Aliaga, a high-ranking police officer and ex-deputy chief of Bolivia’s anti-corruption unit, on two counts of extortion on Wednesday. He faces a maximum of 25 years in prison. A sentencing hearing is set for May 23.
FBI agents arrested Ormachea in a sting operation in Miami on August 31 after he met with Humberto Roca, the former president of AeroSur, once Bolivia’s largest private airline.
According to court documents, Ormachea traveled to Miami to meet with Roca, who faces charges of illegal enrichment in Bolivia. Prosecutors said Ormachea offered to get the charges against Roca dropped in exchange for $30,000.
A conversation between the two men at Roca’s home was recorded by the FBI, court documents show. Police arrested Ormachea during a traffic stop after he received an initial payment of $5,000 in marked bills from Roca.
Michael Diaz, an attorney for Roca, said the verdict was a “vindication” of his client’s claims.
Roca fled Bolivia in 2010, saying he faced political persecution after public prosecutors accused AeroSur of providing tickets to foreign mercenaries.
Roca has said the charges are politically motivated in an effort by Bolivian President Evo Morales to stamp out competition for a state-owned airline. Bolivian government officials have denied the accusations.
Reporting by Kevin Gray, editing by G Crosse