May 23, 2014 / 5:05 PM / in 3 years

Bolivian anti-graft cop sent to prison in U.S. extortion case

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., May 23 (Reuters) - A former senior Bolivian anti-corruption official convicted of trying to extort $30,000 from a Bolivian businessman in Miami was sentenced on Friday to more than three years in a U.S. federal prison.

FBI agents arrested Mario Fabricio Ormachea Aliaga, an ex-deputy chief of Bolivia’s anti-corruption unit, in a sting operation on Aug. 31 after a meeting 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 the $30,000.

“The problem is it (was) not a single incident and this was not an aberration in Mr. Ormachea’s life,” U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum said in a hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, before sentencing Ormachea to 37 months in prison.

Ormachea, once the deputy chief of Bolivia’s police anti-corruption unit, faced up to 25 years in prison after being convicted on two counts of extortion in March.

A conversation between Roca and Ormachea at Roca’s Miami 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.

Ormachea pleaded for an 18-month sentence, saying he faces harsher punishment in Bolivia.

“I have lost all of my income, my health insurance, my retirement and even the home the police gave me,” he said through a Spanish translator. “My family is on the street.”

Roca fled Bolivia in 2010, saying he faced political persecution after public prosecutors accused AeroSur of providing tickets to foreign mercenaries.

He has said the charges against him in the Andean nation 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. (Editing by Kevin Gray and Paul Simao)

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