MIAMI (Reuters) - A former senior Bolivian anti-corruption official accused of trying to extort $30,000 from a former airline executive in Florida pleaded not guilty in federal court on Tuesday.
FBI agents arrested Mario Ormachea Aliaga, who had been deputy chief of Bolivia’s police anti-corruption unit, in a sting operation on August 31 after he met with Humberto Roca, the former president of AeroSur, once Bolivia’s largest private airline.
Ormachea was originally charged with extortion, but prosecutors added a second more serious charge of racketeering. He could face a maximum of 25 years in jail if found guilty.
His trial is set for October 21.
Ormachea was denied bond last week by a judge who said the high ranking policeman might try to flee if released.
Ormachea was identified in court documents as a police colonel, although a top Bolivian police official denied he held that rank and said he was dismissed from his job on August 28.
Roca fled Bolivia in 2010, saying he faced political persecution after prosecutors accused AeroSur of providing tickets to foreign mercenaries.
Last December, a Bolivian judge issued an arrest warrant for Roca for “illegal enrichment.” Roca says the charges were politically motivated in an effort by Bolivian President Evo Morales to stamp out competition to the state-owned airline.
Ormachea offered to get the charges dropped against Roca in Bolivia “for a fee of $30,000,” according to court documents, citing a conversation at Roca’s home that was recorded by the FBI.
Bolivia’s deputy police chief, General Juan Roberto Albarracin, told reporters last week that Ormachea was a “deserter” and that his U.S. trip had not been officially approved.
Additional reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Writing by David Adams; Editing by Cynthia Osterman