May 25, 2018 / 7:47 PM / in 24 days

NY jail guard accused of taking trader-linked bribes pleads not guilty

(Reuters) - A New York City jail guard accused of taking more than $45,000 in bribes to supply contraband to an inmate matching the description of wealthy gold trader Reza Zarrab pleaded not guilty to five criminal charges on Friday.

Victor Casado, from the Bronx, entered his not guilty plea to bribery, fraud, contraband smuggling and two conspiracy counts before U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan, according to a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan.

Florian Miedel, a lawyer for Casado, declined to comment.

Casado worked at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where Zarrab, a dual national of Turkey and Iran, had been held on charges that he conspired to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions.

Federal prosecutors accused Casado in court papers of having taken between $45,000 and $50,000 in bribes from “Inmate-1,” typically through an unidentified lawyer.

In exchange, Casado would smuggle contraband, including alcohol and cellphones, as well as food, Vitamin C and over-the-counter pain medication for the inmate, prosecutors said.

While Inmate-1 was not identified by name, court papers said he had pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran and money laundering, matching Zarrab’s plea, and to bribery in connection with his dealings with Casado.

Benjamin Brafman, a U.S. lawyer for Zarrab, confirmed in an April 5 email that the unidentified lawyer was Turkish and had been assisting Zarrab in jail, and that “none of his U.S. attorneys were involved or even aware” of their transaction.

Zarrab was a star government witness in the recent Manhattan trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former deputy general manager at Turkey’s state-controlled Halkbank.

Atilla was convicted in January of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions, and sentenced on May 16 to 32 months in prison. He filed a notice of appeal of his conviction on Friday.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in Toronto; Editing by Richard Chang

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